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Here's how the power industry is preparing for the upcoming solar eclipse


When the Great American Solar Eclipse happens on Aug. 21, a powerful source of energy will be lost for a few hours.

Some parts of the country, however, will be effected more than others. On the East Coast, North Carolina, which is home to more solar power than any state except California, is preparing for the moment when the sun disappears during a peak time for solar energy production.

Tracing the 2017 Solar Eclipse

Duke Energy, which is responsible for managing more than three quarters of the roughly 3,200 megawatts of solar power in the state, said the company is expecting its solar energy output to drop significantly during the eclipse. In a blog post posted by Duke Energy, the power company estimated its solar energy output will drop from 2,500 megawatts to 200 megawatts in just an hour and a half.

Randy Wheeless, a spokesman for Duke Energy, told Circa that the situation created by the eclipse is unique because a lot of solar energy will be lost very quickly.

"I mean a lot of times you've had thunderstorms crop up and we lose solar in certain individual areas, but what's happening in North Carolina is it's going to have an almost 90 to 100 percent totality with the eclipse," Wheeless said. "We're going to lose a lot of solar quick."

The company's solar panels can produce enough energy to power about 600,000 homes so system operators have to plan ahead to meet the customer demand.

"What we're doing at Duke is making sure we've got natural gas and hydro and other power plants that can come online when that solar is ramping down," Wheeless said. "So a bit of a challenge, it's something we do every day here, but the eclipse does make it very special."

California, which leads the way in solar energy production in the U.S., is also mapping out a plan for the day of the eclipse. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) estimates that the sun will be obscured from 76 percent of Northern California to 62 percent in Southern California, directly effecting the solar energy output in those areas.

"Initial estimates show at the eclipse peak, commercial solar production for the investor-owned utilities will be reduced from an estimated 8,754 MWs to 3,143 MWs at the maximum partial eclipse and then return to 9,046 MWs," CPUC noted in a press release.

Wheeless added that California will lose about four times the amount of solar energy North Carolina does during the eclipse.

Like North Carolina, system operators in California plan to replace solar energy with electricity from natural gas and hydropower plants, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration.

In California, CPUC is encouraging consumers to "unplug" from the grid during the eclipse to let "our hard working sun take a break."

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