August 22, 2017 Read More →

Electricity Grid Takes a Coast-to-Coast Solar-Eclipse Test and Passes It

Bloomberg News:

On Monday, Mother Nature, seemingly unprompted, provided a test of one of the more controversial ideas tossed around by the energy and environmental staff installed by President Trump.

Here’s their question: Do recent changes to way power is generated in the United States — namely, more solar and wind, less coal and nuclear — mean the nation’s grid operators will not have enough power plants to meet electricity needs when the wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shining?

The concern over grid reliability got a real-world test on Monday when the moon cast its shadow across the continental United States from Oregon to South Carolina, dampening solar energy generation in the top two states for solar capacity — California and North Carolina.

Things shook out similarly in North Carolina. There, Duke Energy had readied natural gas-fired generators to make up for lost solar power in a state second only to California in total solar capacity. Though only the western toe of the Tar Heel State saw a total eclipse, Duke, the state’s main electricity supplier, lost 1,700 of its 2,500 megawatts of solar capacity at its height.

“Our system reacted as planned, and we were able to reliably and efficiently meet the energy demands of our customers in the Carolinas,” said Sammy Roberts, Duke Energy’s director of system operations.

David M. Hart, a professor and director of the Center for Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy at George Mason, put the takeaway from Monday’s eclipse like this: “The event is another in a long list of examples that show that system operators are able to integrate the current level of renewables on the grid without sacrificing reliability.”

More: The Energy 202: Eclipse tests growing power of renewable energy

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