Technology

Enjoy the eclipse, but ease off on the electricity

Answers to solar eclipse questions you're too embarrassed to ask

Everyone is excited about the Solar Eclipse that is happening on Aug. 21, so here are some answers to those questions that you want to ask, but are too embarrassed to.
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Everyone is excited about the Solar Eclipse that is happening on Aug. 21, so here are some answers to those questions that you want to ask, but are too embarrassed to.

As the sun goes dark, California will scramble to make sure the lights stay on.

Managers of the state’s power grid braced themselves for the solar eclipse Monday morning, pledging to ramp up other electricity generators to make up for the expected loss of solar power in the nation’s greenest state. No blackouts were forecast, however.

Officials at the Independent System Operator, which runs the state’s power grid, and California Energy Commission said the state should have enough power from other sources to compensate for the drop in solar megawatts. But they asked Californians to conserve when possible when the eclipse started at around 9 a.m.

“Not a good time to use your electric dryer,” said Robert Weisenmiller, chairman of the California Energy Commission.

California probably relies on solar power more than any other state; solar accounted for 9 percent of the state’s electricity needs in 2016, according to the ISO. On some days it generates as much as 40 percent of the electricity on the grid.

“We have an event that will really challenge (the grid) because of so much solar resource on our system,” said Eric Schmitt, the ISO’s vice president for operations.

The ISO estimated that 5,600 worth of solar power could disappear during the three-hour eclipse window, including more than 1,000 megawatts of power from homeowners’ rooftops. Nancy Traweek, the ISO’s executive director of system operations, said the grid operator had arranged with other power generators to pick up the slack.

The state will rely on “whatever wind (power) we have, whatever hydro resources are in the mix, and there will be natural gas as well,” Traweek said.

The state did catch a break in one respect. Temperatures were expected to stay in the 70s throughout the morning, keeping a lid on electricity demand. “The weather helped us out there,” Traweek said.

California has plenty of ample power in spite of the eclipse. The state made it through the epic heat wave of mid-June, when temperatures approached 110 degrees in the Sacramento area, with comparatively few problems.

At the same time, the state’s dependence on solar will grow in the coming years. Under state law, electric utilities must generate half of their electricity from renewable sources such as solar and wind by 2030. Solar currently makes up about half of California’s renewables.

Dale Kasler: 916-321-1066, @dakasler

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