What the Rare Eclipse Means for Solar Power


The last time the entire country was able to enjoy a total eclipse was nearly a century ago. At that time, solar power was nothing more than science fiction. The impending eclipse will completely blot out the sun, inducing a rare moment of daytime lightlessness and a noticeable effect on solar energy.

Experts anticipate that the eclipse will influence nearly two thousand solar-power plants, accounting for more than 12,000 megawatts over the eclipse’s anticipated 240-minute duration; 12,000 megawatts is comparable to the power produced by a dozen nuclear reactors. While few power plants reside along the narrow strip of terrain that will experience a total eclipse, the entire country will notice some level of darkness for those four hours.

One of the big distinctions between the lack of solar power during an eclipse from normal nocturnal operations is that energy usage is significantly diminished at night as people are usually sleeping and have no need of power for their televisions or computers; the eclipse will happen during one of the peak periods of energy usage, beginning at 9:05 a.m. PST and concluding at 4:09 p.m. EST. A lot of people who rely on solar power will either have to go without power or rely on alternative power sources.

For those people concerned with solar power among American homes, the truth is that very few homes and businesses will be impacted. A recent assessment of power generation in the country found that solar energy accounted for less than three percent, with wind representing nearly seven percent and hydroelectricity powering one in ten sites. Conversely, gas-powered plants accounted for three-tenths.

For anyone concerned about the states most influenced by the eclipse, California and North Carolina are notable:

  • California leads the nation in harnessing solar energy for power. The eclipse will impede 70 percent of the country’s sunlight by 10:20 local time.
  • North Carolina gets the silver. North Carolina will only be generating one-tenth normal solar power when demand will be at its peak.

Despite reduced functionality, authorities remark that full-on disruptions would be highly unlikely due to transmission operators having undergone months of training for the impending eclipse. Understandably, the eclipse’s persistence may affect the costs of megawatt hours; while prices might spike, it is just as possible that prices may curb off as more people go outside to safely examine the rare astrological phenomenon.


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