by Bernadette Del Chiaro, Executive Director of CALSEIA
A total solar eclipse will cross the Pacific Northwest two weeks from today. While California is not directly in the cross-hairs, on August 21 from roughly 9am to 12pm, the moon will partially block out 76 percent of the sun in Northern CA and 62 percent in Southern CA. If you or your family plans to step outside that morning to observe the eclipse, please be safe and follow NASA’s safety guidance.
The good news is that local and utility-scale solar now contribute a large percentage of California’s reliable grid energy, even meeting over half of our energy needs for a few hours on one day this spring (according to the Energy Information Administration). That means the rare occasion of a solar eclipse will require us to prepare for how much solar power will be reduced during those few hours of the eclipse.
The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is calling on all Californians to Do Your Thing on and before August 21 to reduce energy use so we avoid burning more fossil fuels during the eclipse. The message is clear: the sun increasingly provides clean energy across the state, creating a more reliable and resilient grid through solar and distributed generation. On this rare event, let’s bolster our commitment to clean energy and replace the sun’s brief break with clean alternatives.
CALSEIA is urging our members to help with the outreach and ask your customers to take action. Between now and 8/21, replace at least half of your light bulbs with LEDs – they use 75% less energy and last 25 times longer. On 8/21, unplug unnecessary electronics like coffee makers, TVs and computers (or better still, put them on an energy-saving powerstrip to kill these “vampire loads” everyday). Also, set your air-conditioner’s thermostat to 80 degrees and close your blinds. Check out more info and make a pledge to take action on caleclipse.org.
The long term clean energy solution is to make solar even more efficient and valuable to the grid by pairing it with energy storage. That is why we are pressing for a robust California storage market so that the sun can shine day or night (or during an eclipse). Solar has replaced many dirty energy sources and storage will go that last mile and help us avoid the dirty air and carbon pollution that comes with firing up natural gas plants during peak demand periods. And as peak demand periods shift later in the day away from peak solar output, we can store solar energy for use when we get home in the evening.
The next total solar eclipse that crosses our direct path won’t be until 2045 – the same year set in place by Senator De Leon’s visionary legislation, SB 100, as the goal for California to have 100% carbon-free energy. Let’s set our goal to be ready with a clean, resilient, flexible, demand-responsive, solar and storage-powered grid well before 2045 so the next eclipse will just be a blip on the screen.
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