We’re About to See Why Solar Power Has Its Drawbacks

3% of Europe's power is generated by solar panels. (Image: Creative Commons)
3% of Europe's power is generated by solar panels. (Image: Creative Commons)

On March 20, as Europeans and their offices begin a normal working weekday, there will be a total solar eclipse.

The eclipse wouldn’t normally be a problem except 3 percent of Europe’s electricity is generated from solar power.

For two hours, there will be a loss of about 35,000 megawatts of power. A coal plant in the United States generates about 600 megawatts. The European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E) calls the eclipse an “unprecedented test for Europe’s electricity system.”

“It will have a cascading effect,” ENTSO-E spokesperson Claire Camus told the Financial Times. “It’s definitely going to be a challenge for control rooms.

“Luckily, we’ve known about the solar eclipse for a while. For the past year, energy companies in Europe prepared for the event, and there is now a network of contacts among control rooms all over the continent, hoping to respond more effectively to problems (like power outages) caused by the eclipse.”

In several reports, policy, and position papers, ENTSO-E has pointed out that in order to guarantee security of supply, a series of policy and regulatory changes are needed to take into account the evolution of Europe’s energy mix. All of ENTSO-E’s work products are designed to ensure that the transition toward a decarbonized economy is as smooth, efficient, secure, and cost effective as possible, ENTSO-E said on their website.

Here is a video about how ENTSO-E transmission system operations are adapting and evolving:

ENTSO-E’s Scenario Outlook & Adequacy Forecast (SO&AF), Seasonal Outlooks, Ten-Year Network Development Plan, etc., provide objective assessments on the impacts, opportunities, and risks of the different policy options. Together with the Solar Eclipse Impact Analysis, ENTSO-E has also published a list of frequently asked questions, and will continue to communicate on the eclipse as the date approaches and beyond, ENTSO-E said.

The solar eclipse will pass over all of Europe. It will be visible from Turkey to Greenland, making the event a proving ground for this renewable energy technology. It will be interesting to see how they go.

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