SOLAR ECLIPSE: In Calif., it’s like planning for a cloudy day

By Debra Kahn | E&E News Link to article

How much of California’s solar will go offline during today’s eclipse? Matthew WMF/Wikipedia

Today’s full solar eclipse will mesmerize the entire U.S., but for power nerds, eyes are trained on sun-thirsty California.

Grid operators in California, the most solar-dependent state, have been thinking about the eclipse for the past year. They say they are fully prepared and not particularly worried, even though the trajectory of celestial bodies will deprive the state of more than half of its solar production — and likely some wind power, as well — in the late morning.

“We really expect it to be very manageable, having the solar ramp down and the other resources ramp up, but we just want to make sure since it is an unusual event for us that everybody’s on the same page,” said Nancy Traweek, executive director of system operations at the California Independent System Operator.

The last major eclipse to pass over parts of the United States was in 1979, when solar penetration was negligible. Now it comprises about 1 percent of U.S. electricity generation — and about 8 percent in California, which has the most utility-scale and residential solar installations.

On its path from Oregon to South Carolina, the eclipse will obscure all of California’s solar panels to varying degrees, ranging from 76 percent in the San Francisco Bay Area to 58 percent in the San Diego area. That will reduce the state’s available electricity by a maximum of about 5,500 megawatts at 10:22 a.m. PDT — 4,200 MW from utility-scale projects, and another 1,300 MW from rooftop solar panels.

That’s a peak loss of about 65 percent of the state’s normal solar capacity and about 14 percent of its peak demand. (Link to article)