Solar eclipse will strain California's electric supply?

Can somebody explain this to me? According to the Sacramento Bee, the August solar eclipse will strain California’s electric supply because so much of California power comes from solar collectors. How can this happen? The eclipse is only going to happen for a few minutes, and how is that any worse than twelve hours of darkness every day?

Well, a large part of California will be in the partial-eclipse path, so for several hours (during peak demand), all the solar cells will only be getting a fraction of the sunlight they normally receive. I can see where this might require bring supplemental generating capacity on-line to compensate.

I think that the journalist who wrote that Sacramento Bee article needs to read the CPUC news releases a bit more closely.

The call for people to reduce energy use is essentially a PR exercise, designed to promote awareness of clean solar power. Basically, what they’re saying is that if we all use less electricity for the two or three hours of the partial eclipse, that will reduce our reliance on non-solar power and send a message about our commitment to clean renewable energy.

Here are some sections from the CPUC Press Release (PDF)

As you can see, it’s basic a public awareness announcement regarding power usage in general, using the eclipse as a convenient excuse. There’s no suggestion, anywhere in the press release, that a failure to reduce energy usage on that particular morning will place any real strain on the power supply.

Hard work just rollin’ 'round heaven all day? O Lord!

Minutes. A solar eclipse lasts for minutes, not hours. A lunar eclipse can be several hours long, but the shadow of the moon on the earth is very small and moves very fast. Even the penumbra (partial eclipse/broader shadow) will affect any given array for no more than about ten or fifteen minutes. I saw a total eclipse in Portland about 30-some years ago, and it was over very quickly.

Totality will only be about 2 minutes, but the partial phase will last a couple hours, and that’s what they’re talking about. Of course, that’s counting from when the moon just starts to move in front of the sun to when it finally leaves. For much of that time, the reduction in light is pretty minimal, especially in southern California, which is about 700 miles away from the path of totality.

But that’s irrelevant anyway for California. Half the state[sup]1[/sup] is going to be in Oregon. Idaho, Wyoming or other states where there’s totality. They should have a pretty significant reduction in power use just because of that.
[sup]1[/sup] Not much of an exaggeration. I read that something like 200 million people are expected to see the eclipse. Even after allowing for large numbers of non-Americans, that will still be about half the US seeing it.

Don’t clouds do this often enough TOO ??? The idea is to have just as much power as you have supplied by weather (solar,wind,wave) on standby in fast turn on turbines , such as natural gas turbines and hydro
Baseload means the amount of plan to run for the day, and you can meet it with anything you have control of and are sure of , but there must be reserve generators ready to turn on to fill in for solar and wind dropping. Or the other way they way do thing is run more generator than required… which means wasting fuel. I guess nuclear fuel doesn’t do much damage to the environment.

I-5 is going to be jammed … bumper-to-bumper from Redding to Salem, 5 mph … only two lanes for traffic both directions …

From SoCal the alternative is I-15 … can’t say if it will be much better … but those are the only two North/South Interstates out here in the West …

You can try US-101 … hahahahaha … but you’ll miss the eclipse … so think creatively …


Bring extra water …

US 395. Prettiest of the bunch. :slight_smile:

Or…given that the eclipse is going to be live-streamed on about a million channels, you can stay home, throw the feed up on the wide-screen, crack a beer and see it in real time like civilized folk.

Possibly joking? But during the annular eclipse, some years ago, I-8 was jammed; traffic came to a total halt. It was stopped from I-5 to the beach. (About four miles of freeway.) Everybody stopped, got out of their cars, and grooved on the eclipse (just barely visible above the horizon.)

But why is this a problem for the few minutes/hours of the eclipse, but not at night?

Night comes every day (or every night, depending on how you look at it), and that’s baked into the grid. Eclipses aren’t. But, as noted, it’s a tiny blip. If it were a bigger blip, it could be a problem. But if that were the case, it, too, would probable be baked into the grid.

Night isn’t generally much of a problem because usage is generally lower at night. When you’re asleep, you have the lights off and the computer in standby mode and so on. And in a place like California, where air conditioning is a major part of consumption, that’s typically lower, too.

Plus, it’s predictable. You know exactly when night is going to come, so even if that were a problem (in a hypothetical world where the bulk of electric energy comes from solar, say), you could easily schedule your other sources (whatever they are) to be coming online then. Of course, an eclipse is predictable, too, so even if it were significant, it wouldn’t be a problem, either.

What’s considerably less predictable is cloud cover, which means that, in so far as you’re relying on solar, you also have to have something else that can take over quickly as soon as clouds roll in. With current technology, that mostly means natural gas plants, or possibly hydro if you have it.

Any calculations on how much solar power will be reduced (for a specific area) for the duration of the eclipse?

Read my post, ferchissakes!

It’s not actually a problem, at least in terms of posing any sort of threat to California’s electricity supply. The journalist misrepresented the CPUC press release. Nowhere in that release does it say that the eclipse will actually cause problems for the grid, and nowhere does it say that a failure to reduce consumption during the eclipse will lead to blackouts or power shortages.

Seems like the traveling to & from there, plus the stalled traffic, would use up a whole lot more energy than would be lost from a few minutes/hours of decreased solar panel generation. And use up way more than will be saved by people cutting back for this short time.

the highway will be jammed with broken heroes on a last ditch power drive?

No, that’s Asbury Park.

LaVoy Finicum Memorial Parkway … forgot about that one … yes, prettiest of the desert routes …