Saturday, March 21, 2015

European Grid Operators 1, Solar Eclipse 0

Eclipse over Berlin (Credit: Sean Gallup / GettyImages) Click to Enlarge.
Weather forecasts calling for bright sun Friday across Europe drove up tensions in advance of the partial solar eclipse that blocked the sun’s rays and plunged much of the continent into a brief period of darkness Friday morning.  Grid operators were bracing for record swings in solar power generation because of the celestial phenomenon.  Some power distributors in Germany had warned of fluctuations in frequency, notifying customers and suggesting that they shut down sensitive equipment.

In the end, while clear weather made for some excellent eclipse viewing, the electrical story ultimately felt more like Monty Python’s radio coverage of the 1972 eclipse.  As if audio coverage of a quintessentially visual event isn’t absurd enough, the Pythons closed their fictitious report in the ultimate anticlimax, as a sudden rainstorm swept in to spoil the solar spectacle.  Europe’s interconnected power grid brought about an equally anticlimactic ending ... by delivering rock-solid stability throughout the 2.5-hour eclipse.

In fact, according to Enrico Maria Carlini, Head of Electric System Engineering for National Dispatching at Rome-based transmission system operator Terna, the grid was more stable than normal.  Carlini had joked last week about doing a rain dance to dampen solar output during before and after the eclipse.  Today he took satisfaction from the fact that the frequency of Europe’s power barely budged from its 50 hertz standard.

Read more at European Grid Operators 1, Solar Eclipse 0

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