The solar eclipse has long been a research opportunity for astronomers and physicists. Now, energy researchers are taking part, too.
That's because the eclipse will disrupt U.S. solar energy production. It won't be a big disruption because solar still takes up a relatively small amount of the energy grid, but it'll happen when energy use is at its peak, and it’ll do so in a very predictable way across a huge area.
That will allow researchers, including some at the National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden, Colo., to test projections and software that could balance energy supplies and demands.
“What we plan to do is expand this framework to be applicable for a variety of future wide-area events like a storm or future eclipse," said Santos Veda, a power systems engineer at the NREL.
He said researchers will be trying to find out how much energy solar panels still produce as the light fades and how the grid reacts to that shift, replacing the dearth in solar power with things like hydropower and natural gas. Veda said this research could help the grid become more reliable as solar panels are added in the future.
"The more information the grid operators have and the more tools that they have at their disposal to learn about these events, the better it is for them to be prepared for any contingencies."