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German grid braces for partial solar eclipse in 2015

An interesting experiment will take place in Germany next year, when the country undergoes a partial solar eclipse. Depending on the weather, the country might ramp its solar power production more than ever before. Power firms are already making preparations.

A partial solar eclipse on March 29, 2006, passed over Germany, but the country only had around 2 GW of PV installed at the time. Another one crossed Germany on August 1, 2008. In the North, the partial eclipse reached 23 percent but fell below 10 percent in the South. The country had less than 5 GW of PV that summer.

The next one came on January 4, 2011 – a day with very little sunlight – and had completely left Germany by 10 AM. Germany had 24.4 GW of PV at the time.

 - The eclipse will affect all of Europe, and it will do so just before noon. The black arrow shows where the total eclipse will be visible. The effect of the eclipse is weaker as you move away from that arrow.
The eclipse will affect all of Europe, and it will do so just before noon. The black arrow shows where the total eclipse will be visible. The effect of the eclipse is weaker as you move away from that arrow.

But on March 20, 2015, a solar eclipse will pass over Norway, covering all of Western Europe partially. Germany will be affected roughly from 9 AM to around 11 AM. And it will probably have more than 37 GW of PV installed.

What will the effect be that day? It depends on the weather – to give you an idea, I went back to mid-March 2014 to see how much solar power was generated (see below).

Agora Energiewende

On March 20, solar power production peaked at an impressive 23 GW, but on March 16 the country’s PV arrays only managed to peak at five GW. In other words, next year during the solar eclipse, Germany might ramp up quickly from a low level to five GW – or maybe to 23 GW.

The difference is crucial for power companies and grid operators, however. If it were a total eclipse near midday, Germany would go from zero GW of PV to around 23 GW in just one hour. But since the country will only have a partial eclipse that day, it might go from 12 to 23 GW in just one hour.

It’s a lot, but the country actually ramps up solar close to that level every day. For instance, last year on March 20 solar power was at 15 GW at 9 AM and 22.3 GW at 11 AM (see Agora's chart above). That’s 7.3 GW in two hours on a normal day. Next year, we might ramp 50 percent more in half the time.

The industry insider who tipped me off to this issue tells me that power firms are already holding meetings to discuss how to deal with the situation. But it could be worse – Germany could easily have twice as much solar as it does today in the long run, and a full solar eclipse on a summer day would be a far greater challenge. But not to worry – the next total solar eclipse will not be seen in Germany until September 3, 2081. (Craig Morris)

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4 Comments on "German grid braces for partial solar eclipse in 2015 "

  1. heinbloed - 10.06.2014, 10:50 Uhr (Report comment)

    About half of all installed and grid connected PV-generators in Germany are nowadays equipped with remote controll managed by the grid authorities. With a growing tendency, it won't take long and two thirds can be remote controlled.
    Within one hour Germany's PV grid feeding can easily be raised or reduced by 5 or 6 GW, no problem at all. Look at last week's/weekend generation, the job is done every day:

    ( plus 5.5 GW of PV-power last Friday 6/6/2014 within 1 hour from 8.45 - 9.45 )

    Germany has one of the most flexible grids in the world, within a few minutes/an hour a few GW of lignite power plants standing close to each other can be blown out without a flickering:


    Germany's white aspergus is causing more problems:


    All the best!

  2. Todd Millions - 07.06.2014, 22:37 Uhr (Report comment)

    Is this late enough in the year and day to have any expected effect onshore or near off shore wind?sites close enough to have reduced sea breeze local winds-in the unlikely event of a march high pressure system along the baltic?Some measurements out if this could be very useful.

  3. jogi54 - 07.06.2014, 19:09 Uhr (Report comment)

    In case, the step is known before, in amount and time, it is easily possible, to manage it. Similar tasks are while a halftime break of a football game. There are several technical possibilities to be prepared for such situations.

  4. heinbloed - 06.06.2014, 11:29 Uhr (Report comment)

    The end is near, depending on the weather ... :)
    Seriously: a partial shading known to come years, centuries ahead: that's something to shock believers but not technicans.

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