Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Could Solar Eclipses Disrupt Electricity in Germany?

Frequency of the German electrical grid on March 20th as well as the minimum and maximum values during the month. Credit: Sven Killinger et al.

Could a solar eclipse over Europe during the day affect the power generated by Germany's photovoltaic systems or solar panels, thereby challenging the reliability of the electrical supply across the country? A new analysis based on simulations and data from the partial solar eclipse that occurred over Europe on the morning of March 20th indicates that such shadowing causes a sudden drop in the power gradient, followed by a steep rise.

However, during the shadowing on March 20th, the amount of imported power rose and the amount of exported power fell accordingly.

"The electrical power supply was not threatened and most likely would not have posed a significant problem even in a worst-case scenario," said Sven Killinger, lead author of the Energy Technology study.

The objective of this study was to provide insight into the question of what could have happened to the German power supply and its reliability during the solar eclipse as compared to what actually happened. Considering that the latter half of the question is obviously very dependent on the actual weather conditions present at that time, using only an ex post perspective would fail to adequately address the degree to which the German electricity system in its current state would be capable for reacting to such rapid changes in solar production under different weather circumstances.

The simulated power generation in this study spans the range of possible scenarios during the solar eclipse on March 20th. Although the observed power values and gradients lie within the range of the simulated results, some critical parts of the methodology should be discussed to better understand the limitations of this approach.

Credit: eurekalert.org

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