The eclipse caused an 80% drop in solar energy production in New York | News

RENSSELAER (TNS) — The solar eclipse that passed over New York City in April led to a sharp, temporary drop in energy production from solar panels, according to a new report.

While it did not cause disruptions to the power grid because solar power provides such a small amount of power for the state, the event showed that similar events should be anticipated in future years as solar and wind projects become increasingly important in the energy mix New York.

“In the hours leading up to the eclipse, solar energy resources generated just over 3,000 megawatts. As the eclipse passed over New York, solar energy production dropped to just under 600 MW by 3:30 p.m., an 80% reduction,” according to a report released this week by the New York Independent System Operator. The organization oversees and helps operate the state’s power grid, which is a system of interconnected power lines that transport electricity from where it is generated to where it is needed.

Because solar power currently represents a small percentage of the state’s total energy production – less than 3% – other forms of generation were easily able to make up for the shortfall. “To compensate for reduced solar energy production during this period, pumped storage, conventional hydropower and fossil fuel resources were brought online,” said the report, which also noted that solar production increased again to almost 1,200 MW at 4 p.m. April, then subsided again as the sun began to set. One megawatt can power up to 1,000 homes.

The NYISO report said this decline illustrates some of the obstacles that will face us in future years as the state’s power system continues to shift away from greenhouse gas-emitting fossil fuels toward renewable energy sources such as solar and wind.

“In this episode, we saw how the system will perform as we move closer to CLCPA goals,” said Kevin Lanahan, vice president of external affairs for NYISO. CLCPA, or the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, is a 2019 law that calls for 70% of the state’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2030.

This means that as fossil fuel power plants are phased out, more and more solar and wind farms will be built.

“As solar capacity continues to increase in the coming years, events like this will continue to highlight how solar and other weather-dependent resources create new challenges for our forecasting and operations teams. Continued collaboration with stakeholders, technological innovation and investment in additional dispatch resources and transmission infrastructure will provide operators with the tools necessary to maintain reliability,” NYISO concluded.

Using large-sized batteries is one way to deal with weather disruptions, but that alone probably won’t be enough, Lanahan added. Scientists, utilities and developers are looking for zero-emission alternatives, from small “modular” nuclear power plants to hydrogen fuel cell facilities.

“We are in the process of determining what those resources will be,” Lanahan said.

Power plant and grid operators such as NYISO were notified well in advance of the upcoming April 8 eclipse so they could plan for it. But last summer’s smoky and foggy weather that gripped the state as wildfires burned out of control in Quebec, Canada, also affected solar energy production.

According to the NYISO, power drawn from solar panels dropped by 1,455 megawatts on June 6-7, 2023. “It was a curve ball,” Lanahan said. Meteorologists do not currently expect another smoky summer.

News about the impact of the eclipse on solar energy production was included in the NYISO publication “Power Trends 2024”. The 60-page annual report examines key factors in the state’s grid and wholesale energy markets. New York’s electricity is sold in bulk in an ongoing real-time auction and then routed to where demand is found through the state’s various utilities that operate power lines, such as National Grid, Con Edison and Central Hudson Gas & Electric.

The report also warns of shrinking reliability margins, or cushions, needed to ensure consistent power during events such as summer heatwaves that prompt more people to turn on their air conditioners.

(c)2024 Times Union (Albany, New York)

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