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German Energy Grid Faces Crucial Test With Impending Solar Eclipse

On March 20, the moon will pass in front of the Sun, blocking 82% of light reaching Germany. This is not a new occurrence, but given the country’s ever-increasing reliability on renewable energy — such as solar — the impact of this year’s eclipse could be critical.

14991415774_669d11b671_zGermany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems released a study last week, analysing the possible effects the solar eclipse will have on the Germany electricity supply.

According to the study, the partial eclipse will cause a sudden drop in solar-generated power, followed by a sudden surge that the energy grid will need to balance to avoid grid instability. Simulations run by the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems show that conventional power plants and hydroelectricity pump-storage facilities should be able to account for the sudden impact of the eclipse.

Two scenarios are provided: The first, if the day the eclipse occurs is a sunny one, would create the greatest strain on the energy grid; the second scenario suggests that the eclipse will have very little effect on the system if the day is already overcast and cloudy.

Germany has approximately 1.4 million solar installations across the country, contributing approximately 6% to Germany’s energy mix (in 2014). As Europe’s biggest economy, this figure is expected to increase significantly over the next decade, as the country aims to reach its target of 80% electricity from renewable energy by 2050. Germany currently acquires 26% from renewables, across solar, wind, biomass, and hydroelectric plants.

Thanks to The Associated Press article for helping make sense of some of the more specific German-translation issues in the Fraunhofer Institute article

Image Credit: Partial solar eclipse via andersbknudsen, Flickr, CC BY 2.0

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