California solar grid shines bright during eclipse

While millions of Americans were staring up at the first solar eclipse to cross the United States in nearly a century, Folsom, Calif., Dozens of engineers had their eyes focused on their giant screens to follow the evolution of the phenomenon.

The rapid disappearance of the sun’s rays in the skies of this state was fraught with consequences for the power grid. California has more solar panels than any other region in the United States.

Every cloud or every passage from day to night requires adjustments to avoid breakdowns, so imagine an eclipse!

“The worst case scenario would have been thousands of power outages,” said Anna Alfano McKenna, an ISO California advisor (CAISO). You have to understand that 10 or 20 years ago there was not as much solar energy distributed in our network. An eclipse is an extraordinary event. We have been preparing for this day for a year and a half. ”

CAISO engineers even studied the impact of the last solar eclipse on the German electricity grid in 2015.

More than 10% of the energy produced in California now comes from solar panels. Never before has this network experienced such a significant drop in production since it was commissioned, moreover during the morning rush hour.

The eclipse deprived of electricity the equivalent of 6 million residences. The challenge was to find another source of energy such as natural gas or wind turbines, without destabilizing or cluttering the grid that had to deal with an overload of electricity.

“Other sources of energy, such as natural gas, take longer to produce raw energy than solar,” said Anna Alfano McKenna. Our challenge was to keep the system in balance. Not enough electricity leads to breakdowns. Too much electricity has the same effect. ”

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