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The Eclipse Could Overload the Power Grid (and how to Help Manage it)

The Eclipse Could Overload the Power Grid (and how to Help Manage it)


Screen capture from Hinode video of Nov. 13, 2012 solar eclipse.

Home automation producer Nest Labs has a message for customers (and everyone else) – turn down your AC prior to the Great American Eclipse to help prevent strain on the power grid.

When the eclipse achieves first contact in Oregon at around 12:00 EST, it’ll lead to a tremendous dip in solar capacity nationwide – by some estimates, as much as 9,000 mw of power – and traditional power sources will need to fill the void (especially in areas that rely more heavily on photovoltaics).

While solar accounts for only about 1% of the nation’s total energy needs, California (with about 8.8 gw of utility scale PV) supplies a full 40% of that total. Solar also accounts for nearly 40% of Cali’s own energy production, and the Golden State will supplement its lost PV production with natural gas and hydropower.

The California Independent System Operator (CAISO) is urging all customers to “do one small thing to reduce energy usage” during the eclipse, since the real issue isn’t the immediate loss in solar capacity but the spike in demand after the fact. After the eclipse, during the “energy rush hour,” solar will suddenly add all its power at once, potentially overloading the grid. A slight reduction in overall demand could help mitigate the effects.

For subscribers, Nest’s proprietary system allows you to join the “Solar Eclipse Rush Hour,” which will cool your home ahead of time, reducing demand during the eclipse. But anyone, Nest or no, can achieve a similar result by managing their energy usage during the event.

As a reminder, and for those of us who didn’t buy specialty glasses, you can watch the Great American Eclipse safely on NASA’s official page starting at about 11:45 EST here: