Solar eclipse will test Germany's green power grid

March 13, 2015 byFrank Jordans
The Sun by the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly of NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. Credit: NASA

Will next week's partial solar eclipse turn off the lights in Germany?

Experts say the country's , which relies increasingly on renewable energy, faces a crucial test on the morning of March 20, when the moon will pass in front of the sun and block up to 82 percent of its light across Germany.

This will cause a sudden drop and then a surge in solar-generated power that will have to be balanced out to avoid instability in the grid, Germany's Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems said Friday.

Scientists at the Freiburg-based institute ran simulations showing that conventional power plants and hydroelectricity pump-storage facilities should be able to cushion the impact of the eclipse.

They found that the strain on the grid would be greatest on a sunny day—such as March 20, 2014—when the drop and subsequent rebound would be strongest. Grid operators have likened the effect to 12 large power plants being switched off and 19 being switched on in a short space of time.

If the weather is overcast, the impact should be negligible, the Fraunhofer institute found.

Solar power from some 1.4 million installations contributed almost 6 percent to Germany's energy mix last year, but is set to rise steadily as Europe's biggest economy strives to meet 80 percent of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2050. Germany currently gets almost 26 percent of its electricity from renewables, including solar, wind, biomass and hydroelectric plants.

The upcoming eclipse will help grid operators plan for the next comparable event in 2026, when Germany expects to have shuttered its .

Explore further: Will the March 20th total solar eclipse impact Europe's solar energy grid?

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11 comments

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antigoracle
1 / 5 (1) Mar 13, 2015
Hmm... just like the dark ages, when eclipses heralded doom and gloom.
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Mar 13, 2015
Will next week's partial solar eclipse turn off the lights in Germany?

Since a lot of people will be outside watching it (i.e. not being indoors using power) and since at that time of day you don't need lights on in any case...probably not.
foolspoo
not rated yet Mar 13, 2015
i dont see the doom and gloom attitude of the author here?
antigoracle
1 / 5 (2) Mar 13, 2015
Will next week's partial solar eclipse turn off the lights in Germany?

Since a lot of people will be outside watching it (i.e. not being indoors using power) and since at that time of day you don't need lights on in any case...probably not.

For want of a better word, I find your naivete, amusing. You fail to comprehend how critical electricity is to modern society, and the fact that they are not just going to let the lights go out, but instead play a game of musical power plants, if you will.
Grid operators have likened the effect to 12 large power plants being switched off and 19 being switched on in a short space of time.
adam_russell_9615
not rated yet Mar 13, 2015
Since its not about losing power, but instead about the sudden drop in power and then the sudden reawakening of power, maybe they could ask people to voluntarily shutter their solar panels so it wont happen all at once.
Eikka
1 / 5 (1) Mar 14, 2015
maybe they could ask people to voluntarily shutter their solar panels so it wont happen all at once.


What, and lose feed-in subsidies? You'd have to pay them to do that.

Because of the subsidy structure, renewable producers don't care what problems their power causes. They have the right of way, so utilities have to pay them to stop them from producing power, up to twice the going rate of electricity:

http://www.telegr...ity.html

National Grid paid owners £2.8 million to shut down their wind farms, at up to double the rate they would have received in subsidies had they actually generated electricity.

A further £1.1 million was given to other power stations to generate electricity to make up the shortfall created by shutting the wind farms down.


This will be a reality with solar power as well, once it grows large enough.
Lex Talonis
not rated yet Mar 14, 2015
This is a crock of shit - it's all more or less exactly calculable..

Stress test????

No cloud - Big temporary drop in solar power.
Overcast / Cloudy - Fuck all difference.

adam_russell_9615
not rated yet Mar 14, 2015
This is a crock of shit - it's all more or less exactly calculable..

Stress test????

No cloud - Big temporary drop in solar power.
Overcast / Cloudy - Fuck all difference.



I think they are saying that a cloud moving across the sun would not cause the power to dropoff as quickly as the moon moving across the sun.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (4) Mar 16, 2015
You fail to comprehend how critical electricity is to modern society, and the fact that they are not just going to let the lights go out,

Germany is in a eurpean grid. Solar eclipses are predictable (much more so than weather conditions). What do you think the guys in the control centers will be doing? Go "Oh, shucks...nothing we can do about it."?
The European (and especially the german) powerplants are built to have reserves. This isn't the US where every small hiccup produces nation-wide brown-outs because power companies shave off every percent of extra power generation for profit. I can't even remember when we had the last power outage where I live.
greenonions
not rated yet Mar 16, 2015
Eikka
This will be a reality with solar power as well, once it grows large enough.


Unless the cost of solar with storage becomes cheaper than other sources of power - in which case all of the whining in the world will not stop the march of progress. http://cleantechn...cwa-ceo/

Something to wonder - is what would the cost of power be to consumers if the U.K. had foregone wind - and instead built out a whole bunch more Hinkleys. Eikka forgot to talk about the massive subsidies going to Hinkley - amounting to "twice the cost of the power" http://www.thegua...somerset
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Mar 20, 2015
....aaaand: nothing happened (pretty much as expected).

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