Up to 35GW of solar power could drop off the European network on Friday as the moon partially obscures the sun
By Megan Darby
Europe’s power network operators face a test on Friday morning as a partial eclipse will cause a dip in solar power generation.
Between 0741 and 1150, the moon will move across the sun’s path, blocking out up to 90% of sunlight across mainland Europe. The Faroe Islands and Svalbard will experience a total eclipse.
Grid companies have prepared for up to 35GW of solar power to fade from the system, the equivalent output of nearly 80 gas turbines.
The actual impact is expected to be less, with cloudy weather forecast to dampen the peak solar output.
ENTSO-E, the industry body, said they were taking all appropriate measures to make sure there would be no loss of power supply.
But it added, in a statement: “The solar eclipse is a perfect illustration that maintaining system security with more and more volatile and dispersed generation is becoming increasingly challenging.”
The challenge is particularly stark in Germany, where solar panels make up more than one fifth of power generation capacity and growing.
A study by the Fraunhofer Institute found that by 2030, fluctuations like tomorrow’s will be an everyday occurrence.
After the eclipse passes over Germany tomorrow, the researchers forecast a surge of 15GW in the space of an hour.
As the country installs more renewable energy, it will only take routine changes in wind and sunshine to cause a similar effect.
Agora Energiewende, a think-tank dedicated to Germany’s “energy transition” that commissioned the research, said the changes were manageable.
“If today’s relatively inflexible power system can cope with the eclipse, the power system of 2030 will deal with similar situations easily,” said director Patrick Graichen.
“For a successful energy transition in Germany, the power system will have to become more flexible anyway.”