Hundreds of millions of Europeans will experience a solar eclipse ranging from 40% to 97% obscuration on March 20th. Iceland will have a total blackout. The solar power industry is very concerned about how it will manage when an estimated 35,000 MW of electricity vanishes from the system, then comes surging back two hours later.
According to the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSOE), due to the amount of solar energy involved, it was necessary to evaluate and mitigate the risk, with the aim of managing an incident so that the electricity supply returned at least to a level equal to that of a standard operating day.
Losing 35,000 MW of solar energy during the daytime is the equivalent of nearly eighty medium-sized conventional generating units. It will occur on a Friday morning – when everything goes dark there will be surge in demand for electricity as hundreds of millions of homes and workplaces switch their lights on.
The whole of Europe will experience some obscuration on March 20th, with levels of darkness becoming more pronounced towards the north west. (Source: ENTSOE)
“Managing this event on the world’s largest interconnected grid is an unprecedented challenge for European TSOs.”
“Solar eclipses have happened before but with the increase of installed photovoltaic energy generation, the risk of an incident could be serious without appropriate countermeasures, as was pointed out in ENTSO-E’s Winter Outlook Report of last December.”
ENTSOE’s Solar Eclipse Impact Analysis (citation below) concluded that operational coordination among European transmission system operators (TSOs) will be vital.
After a comprehensive planning network, they will put in place continuous on line coordination between control rooms across the continent before and during the eclipse to better coordinate the scheduled remedial actions.
“While it is clear from the report that TSOs are taking all necessary measures to mitigate the risks, the solar eclipse is a perfect illustration that maintaining system security with more and more volatile and dispersed generation is becoming increasingly challenging.”
“In several reports, policy and position papers, ENTSO-E has pointed out that in order to guarantee security of supply, a series of policy and regulatory changes are needed to take into account the evolution of Europe’s energy mix. All of ENTSO-E’s work products are designed to ensure that the transition towards a decarbonised economy is as smooth, efficient, secure and cost effective as possible.”
In 1999, solar power represented just 0.1% of renewable electricity generation in Europe, compared to 10.3% in 2012 (3% of the total).
Obscuration in the UK will range from 97% to 84%.
Reference: “Solar Eclipse 2014 Impact Analysis,” Regional Group Continental Europe and Synchronous Area Great Britain. ENTSO-E. Published February 19th, 2015.