How to cope with the intermittent output from solar power plants during a solar eclipse? Turn off your air conditioning and sweat it out.

For one day in August the Ivanpah facility won’t be incinerating as many birds as usual, due to the solar eclipse. Photo by James Ulvog.

Yeah, turn up the a/c temp is what those of us in California should do during the solar eclipse on August 21, according to the CPUC. Sweat it out.

The eclipse will start about 9 a.m. and hit maximum sun coverage about 10:20, with full sun resuming about 11:54 a.m.

Two issues. That is the front end of peak solar production during the day and August 21 is likely to be a hot day. That means output from solar plants will be lower than usual while demand for electricity will likely be higher than usual.

Drop in amount of sunlight is expected to be about 62% in SoCal, around 76% in northern part of state.

During the eclipse, about two-thirds of the solar production will be lost at the time of day when about 40% of our electricity comes from solar plants. Using those numbers means we will lose about 27% of our electricity production during that three hour time frame.

Estimate from CPUC is that around 10,000 MW of electricity, that’s 10 gigawatts, won’t be there when we need it.

Point estimate is a drop of utility-scale production from 8,754 MWs to 3,143 MWs. That is a drop of about 5.6 GW from the utility-owned plants. That obviously doesn’t include home and business rooftop panels. Homes and businesses will be drawing lots of additional power from the grid.

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So how can we possibly make it through this horrible situation?

Cal ISO says they are making sure hydro power will be available and the peaker natural gas turbines have full loads of gas on hand.

They plan to gear up lots of natural gas peakers and drain water from our drinking reservoirs.

The CPUC suggests we should not be using extra fossil fuels, merely because the sun is hidden on a very hot day.

Instead, the CPUC recommendation is:

  • Install energy-efficient LED bulbs
  • Unplug TVs
  • Unplug other electronics
  • Turn up the temp on your air conditioner

I’m not pulling your leg. Those are the recommendations from CPUC (hey, maybe you can tell your boss you gotta’ take a 3 hour break ’cause you oughta’ turn off your computer! Be back at 1 after lunch!).

Let me rephrase those wonderful words of wisdom.

To cope with a naturally occurring interruption to intermittent power we should go out and spend a bunch of money on new light bulbs.

More importantly, when unreliable solar power is unreliable we should stop using the conveniences of modern life, such as television, radios, clothes washers, and indoor lights.

Oh, the biggest thing:

Turn up the temp on your a/c.

Sweat it out.

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