Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg

California Answer to Coming Solar Eclipse: Unplug Appliances

  • August eclipse to gradually cut solar power output 64 percent
  • State utility regulator urges conservation over fossil fuels

California’s top utility regulator has a solution to the near-instant loss of 5.6 gigawatts of solar power production during the next solar eclipse: unplug your appliances.

On Aug. 21, shading from the eclipse will begin to cross the state at 9:02 a.m. and reduce output at solar farms by as much as 64 percent, and then reverse at 10:22 a.m. and increase production rapidly until about noon, the California Public Utilities Commission said in a statement Thursday.

By cutting demand during the eclipse event, consumers will ease the strain on the grid and also avoid the need to start up natural gas turbines to meet demand, Michael Picker, the commission’s president, said in the statement. He’s asking customers to cut electricity use by 3.5 gigawatts from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. local time. One gigawatt is enough to power about 750,000 homes at once, according to California’s grid operator.

California has more than 10 gigawatts of solar power capacity connected to its utility grids and this is the first major eclipse since development of the resource began a decade ago. Reducing consumption will reduce the need to ramp up fossil-fuel generation, Picker said.

“We don’t have to rely on expensive and inefficient natural gas peaking plants,” Picker said.

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