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Incoming eclipse has solar industry on guard

Daniel Martins
Digital Reporter

Saturday, February 28, 2015, 10:56 AM - There's a solar eclipse on the horizon for March 20, and that has Europe's solar power producers worried.

It'll be only partially visible in Canada in parts of Newfoundland and Labrador, but in Europe, hundreds of millions of people will see between 40 and 90 per cent of the sun's disk obscured.

As the sun darkens, an estimated 35,000 MW of electricity will fade from the system, then coming surging back online, according to the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSOE).

"Managing this event on the world's largest interconnected grid is an unprecedented challenge for European [transmission system operators]," the group said last week.

They liken it to having two sunrises and sunsets in one day, one of which happens on a much faster scale. 

That wouldn't have been a problem in past occurrences in Europe. In 1999, solar power made up just 0.1 per cent of renewable electricity generation in Europe.

But that number has skyrocketed in the past decade, reaching 10.2 per cent of renewable energy in 2012, and three per cent of the total.

ENTSOE says operators haven't come up with specific countermeasures to cope with the surge, instead relying on existing ones.

"The main difference is that in view of the particular challenge that the solar eclipse represents for the continental European power system, the countermeasures might be activated more rapidly than usual," the group says.

SOURCES: ENTSOE | European Commission | Time and Date

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