PG&E Gearing up for Unusual Challenges of Solar Eclipse
When the skies turn dark the morning of Aug. 21, as a total solar eclipse passes over the lower 48 United States, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) will be hard at work to ensure that the lights stay on. PG&E has prepared for the eclipse for the better part of a year and expects no impact to customer electric service.
PG&E’s energy grid operators have a plan to reduce any potential effects of the eclipse. This includes:
· Halting all non-essential maintenance work on generation-related infrastructure to ensure abundant resources are available.
· Utilizing the company’s state-of-the-art grid technology to reroute generation and distribution as necessary.
· Coordinating with the California Independent System Operator (ISO), which operates much of the state’s grid, to access other fast-ramping sources of power to replace solar generation.
“Solar eclipses are rare but we deal with the equivalent of a total eclipse every night when the sun goes down. Even with so much of California’s energy now coming from solar, PG&E has a diverse supply of resources that allow us to meet customers’ needs for safe and reliable energy around the clock,” said Nick Stavropoulos, president and COO of PG&E.
In PG&E’s service area, the eclipse will begin around 9 a.m. and peak around 10:15 a.m. It will reduce the sun’s power by 85 percent in PG&E’s northern region, 75 percent in the Bay Area and 65 percent along the Central Coast and in the Central Valley, according to PG&E meteorologists.
PG&E forecasts the eclipse will create a potential drop-off of 2,600 megawatts of solar energy supply across its service area. PG&E and the ISO plan to replace that supply with other fastramping power sources, including abundant clean, renewable hydropower available after a banner rainy season.
California consumers always have helped the grid by conserving energy when called upon.
While no calls for conservation are needed at this point, according to the ISO, PG&E customers are asked to stay ready and respond to any calls for emergency conservation. This could include a Flex Alert should unexpected grid conditions occur, including wildfires causing transmission or generation outages or a heat wave leading to high energy demand. Consumers can sign up to receive ISO Flex Alerts.
PG&E is a strong supporter of solar power. More than 300,000 of its customers use rooftop solar, that’s 25 percent of all rooftop solar in the nation. Customers may lose some rooftop solar generation during the eclipse, but those customers won’t see any impact to their electric service due to the reliability and flexibility of the electric grid.
PG&E also reminds customers to take proper safety measures if they choose to watch the eclipse. Looking directly at the sun is unsafe, even during a partial eclipse. Eclipse viewers should use special-purpose solar filters, such as eclipse glasses, or hand-held solar viewers purchased from authorized dealers of such products. Visit NASA’s website for more information on the coming eclipse.
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