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The California Independent System Operator (CAISO) is the nonprofit organization responsible for managing the state’s utility network. And walking into its Folsom headquarters is like stepping into a futuristic space station. There are monitors all over the place, showing real-time data about every single aspect of the utility grid you could imagine.

It truly is impressive.

But if you visit CAISO today, you’ll notice something unusual.

In addition to screens showing transmission lines, electricity flows, solar PV output, weather charts, and localized grid failures, you will also see a lot more astronomical information.

Although CAISO is responsible for California’s utility grid, it must now also keep an eye out on what’s happening in the solar system.

Why is that?

How the Moon Affects Solar PV Power Output

On August 21 of next year, much of the Pacific Coast will experience a full solar eclipse.

That’s nothing new.

California has seen thousands of solar eclipses before. And most of the coverage will affect Portland, with California only receiving a partial eclipse.

But even still, the impact will be huge for the state’s power grid.

That’s because California is more dependent on sunshine than at any time in history. And during the eclipse, CAISO is anticipating a sharp drop in total solar output – from an estimated 6,600+ MW to 2,800+ MW. As a result, the state will need to ramp up electricity from other power sources to cover the gap.

But the problem goes much deeper than that.

CAISO only monitors utility-scale electricity. However, this eclipse will also affect the tens of thousands of residential and commercial PV installations throughout the state.

In addition, California shares much of its power with neighboring territories, many of whom generate their own solar power. For example, Utah’s total output is expected to dip by 70% during the eclipse.

As CAISO’s Amber Motley points out, “This is a unique event that we don’t get to deal with on a day-to-day basis.”

And she’s right.

As solar power becomes more mainstream worldwide, utility operators will have to factor in astronomical events that they’ve never had to consider in the past.

Fortunately, solar eclipses are fairly easy to predict. And through a mix of additional power sources and consumer education, it’ll be possible for California to manage the August 21 event. Plus, there’ll also be a lot more energy storage throughout the grid – both at the utility level and on commercial and residential properties.

Even still, this signals a new chapter in the renewable energy industry.

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