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Solar Eclipse? No Worries

Photovoltaics: Power sharing during March eclipse offset dip in power, stabilized Germany’s grid

by Mitch Jacoby
November 9, 2015 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 93, Issue 44

Credit: Shutterstock
Solar eclipse
This is a photo of a solar eclipse; the moon is blocking the sunlight.
Credit: Shutterstock
Solar eclipse

A midday solar eclipse could severely impair a national electrical grid system heavily dependent on power from solar cells. But Germany’s grid fared well during the eclipse on March 20, according to a study published in Energy Technology (2015, DOI: 10.1002/ente.201500228). At the time of the last total eclipse, which was in 1999, Europe’s installed photovoltaic capacity was less than 1 gigawatt. Since then it has climbed to 90 GW, with Germany accounting for nearly half of that capacity. The heavy dependence on photovoltaic power motivated Sven Killinger, Niklas Kreifels, and coworkers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems to evaluate the effects of the eclipse on the electric grid and the team’s ability to simulate and thus predict those effects. On the basis of data collected from hundreds of photovoltaic installations and traditional power plants across Germany, the team found that the eclipse caused a 17-GW drop in power. The effects of the power dip, which was offset by power sharing with neighboring countries, did not destabilize the country’s power supply and can be accurately predicted, the team concludes.


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