Bad weather leads to solar eclipse power surge

Clouds and cold weather this morning caused a major 2GW surge in power demand as millions turned their TVs and kettles on rather than venturing outside to watch the eclipse.

National Grid predicted a considerable impact on the grid, with an 850MW drop of solar power supply, but largely offset by 1.1GW drop in demand as people went outside to see the phenomenon.

The UK began to go dark at about 8:40 this morning and the effects were expected to last for around two hours. However, the demand dropped by only 400MW instead of 1.1GW, while the surge was even bigger than when Andy Murray won Wimbledon in 2013.

National Grid started preparing for the eclipse nine months ago and according to Jeremy Caplin, forecasting manager at the firm, tools were in place to manage any effects of the eclipse and balance the network.

Solar power was also expected to be put to the test today as the solar eclipse covered much of Europe, Catalina Spataru, senior researcher in smart grids at University College London, wrote in a blog post yesterday.

“The installed capacity of solar power in continental Europe is expected to reach 90GW this year, comparable to 150 coal-fired plants.

“Under clear skies, regulators expect some 35GW of solar energy to fade away with the eclipse before being re-injected into Europe’s electrical system.”

Figures from ENTSOE, Europe’s association of national grid operators, estimated that 50 per cent of the lost power will come from Germany and 21 per cent from Italy and since the electrical grids across Europe are linked together – to juggle excess energy between them – the European power system had to adapt in real time.

The grid was expected to lose 0.4GW/minute and gain 0.7GW/minute as the sun returned, making it increasingly difficult to keep it stable with a huge amount of electricity coming online at once.

Figures are yet to be released in the coming days to assess exactly how the eclipse affected electricity networks and solar power.

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