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April 15, 2024

Solar energy dipped during the eclipse, but the grid was prepared

Safety glasses, coronas and traffic were all the talk this week after parts of the U.S. experienced a total solar eclipse on Monday afternoon, with Connecticut seeing the sun covered by the moon 92% of the way at its peak.

Days before, the U.S. Energy Information Administration put out an analysis saying that solar electricity generation would be “briefly” limited around the country, although it would be more noticeable in areas of 100% totality.

So with the sun mostly covered in Connecticut and some parts of New England experiencing totality, what happened to the thousands of homes and hundreds of schools that run on solar power?

Short answer: Nothing.

The director of operations at ISO New England, which manages the region’s electric grid, said they prepared for it.

“The work done ahead of time to understand how the eclipse would impact the regional power system was crucial to a smooth operating day,” said the director in a public post on their website.

Operators were expecting a steep decrease in the use of solar power during the eclipse, which data from ISO confirms.

Use of solar power steeply dropped on Monday afternoon when the eclipse was at its peak. In the following days, it followed a steady course, allowing for cloudy weather.

Solar helps take pressure off the grid. At certain times of day and year, solar power makes up over half of all renewable energy used on the grid. Out of all sources of energy though, both renewable and non-renewable, solar makes up a smaller chunk.

Despite solar's small share of total energy use, operators had to prepare for its drop. ISO said that it ramped up use of natural gas and hydroelectric to offset the loss in solar power.

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