Georgia Magazine - August 2017 - 22
BY PAUL WESSLUND
The solar eclipse and solar power
homes and businesses. These new
inverter technologies are needed for
wind and solar because of the retirement of baseload resources that traditionally have provided this inertia.
These new processes are being used
in conjunction with more natural gas
resources, which are more flexible
than coal at adjusting to sudden shifts
in supply and demand. Further, natural gas power generators can ramp up
faster than coal when the sun stops
shining or wind stops blowing.
The organization responsible
for ensuring resource adequacy of
the electric grid, the North American
Electric Reliability Council (NERC), issued a report suggesting that utilities
prepare for the eclipse. NERC singles
out California and North Carolina as
states that are near the path of the
total eclipse and that also rely heavily on solar power. NERC says those
states should "perform detailed studies and retain necessary resources to
meet the increased and varying load"
as the expected drop in solar will call
for more electricity from other sources during those few minutes.
The path of the total eclipse in
North America will start in Oregon
at 10:15 a.m. Pacific time and move
across the country during the next
hour-and-a-half, leaving South Carolina at 2:49 p.m. Eastern time. A partial
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No, you don't need to worry
about losing electricity; your
electric cooperative knows
the eclipse is coming and
will keep the power flowing.
But this astronomical event
does show how renewable
energy is making
eclipse will affect a much wider band
along that route.
Paul Wesslund writes about cooperative issues for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association,
the Arlington, Va.-based service arm
of the nation's 900-plus consumerowned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives.
For information on safely
viewing the solar eclipse,
see "Eclipse close to
home" on page 10
of this issue,
download a free
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ere's how big solar energy has
gotten: The eclipse coming up on
Aug. 21 has utilities making plans
to avoid power outages when the
moon blocks the sun for two minutes
and 40 seconds over the middle of
No, you don't need to worry
about losing electricity; your electric
cooperative knows the eclipse is coming and will keep the power flowing.
But this astronomical event does show
how renewable energy is making a
difference, as solar and wind power
enter the fuel stream alongside more
traditional electricity fuels, such as
coal, natural gas and nuclear power.
When the moon moves in front of
the sun during an eclipse, "solar shuts
off very quickly," says Michael Leitman, strategic analyst at the Arlington,
Va.-based National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. "Then it comes
right back to full power." That can
cause problems for an electric grid
designed to generate power exactly
when it's needed and to keep that
electricity at a consistent frequency.
Traditional baseload resources-
such as coal, nuclear and natural
gas-provide stability to the electric
grid and prevent sudden shifts in
frequency. Because of their intermittent nature, wind and solar do not
automatically provide these benefits.
As the share of wind and solar power
in the energy mix grows, this becomes
more problematic, because wind
and solar do not always produce
predictable and consistent amounts of
Luckily, new technologies are
emerging that can provide synthetic
inertia to help alleviate this problem.
The term "synthetic inertia" refers to
the effect produced by new inverter
technologies to make the flow of energy from wind and solar more even
across electricity transmission lines,
through substations and onto the
distribution lines that carry power to