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Europe preparing for March solar eclipse for several months

Staff writer |
European transmission system operators (TSOs) have been preparing for the March 20 solar eclipse for several months.

​Under a clear morning sky on 20 March 2015, some 35,000 MW of solar energy, which is the equivalent of nearly 80 medium size conventional generation units, will gradually fade from Europe's electrical system before being gradually re-injected: all in the space of two hours while Europeans and their offices begin a normal working week day.

On March 20, a solar eclipse will cover up to 80 percent of the sun in Germany. Some parts of Scotland will see 94 percent darkness. This will be the biggest solar eclipse since 1999.

The moon will cover the sun in the morning hours of Friday, March 20. Timing of the eclipse puts pressure on electricity providers, said The Independent. It all happens at rush hour and as day workers start up. The blackout will begin in the UK at 8.45am and the maximum eclipse, when the moon is nearest the middle of the sun, will be at 9.31am. The blackout ends at 10:41.

The eclipse carries a new challenge compared to the eclipse of 1999, namely use of solar energy. Back then, only 0.1 percent of the renewable energy supply came from solar. A number of countries now use solar energy; 10.5 percent of the green energy in Europe comes from such sources.

Transmission systems operators have a cooperative plan; control rooms will control scheduled actions across Europe ahead of and during the eclipse. The Financial Times quoted ENTSO-E spokesperson Claire Camus: "It will have a cascading effect," she said. Countries would draw on each other's reserves of electricity in turn, as the path of the eclipse cuts solar power at faster rates than under natural conditions.

ENTSO-E said it planned to continue communications on the eclipse as the day draws near and beyond. Within 30 minutes the solar power production would decrease from 17.5 gigawatts to 6.2GW and then increase again up to 24.6GW. This means that within 30 minutes the system will have to adapt to a load change of -10GW to +15GW.

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