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California prepares for solar power loss during the Great Eclipse

By Laura Geggel

A total solar eclipse that will sweep across the United States on Aug. 21 is expected to make a noticeable dent in solar-energy collection, prompting energy workers to concoct workarounds that will help them meet energy demands while the eclipse passes overhead.

Utility workers already have a game plan in California, where 9 percent of electricity came from utility-scale solar plants in 2016. During the eclipse, when the sun disappears behind the moon, power grid workers plan to ramp up energy output from other sources, including from hydroelectricity and natural gas, and then quickly reintroduce solar power as the sun reappears.

In all, California's residents shouldn't notice a difference in their power supply during the duration of the eclipse, said Steven Greenlee, a spokesman for California Independent System Operator (ISO), a nonprofit that manages California's power grid.

solar eclipse power loss

The solar eclipse won't pass directly over California, but it will still affect the state's solar energy grid, particularly from 10:19 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. local time on Aug. 21. Credit: California ISO

Even though the eclipse isn't passing directly over California — it's traveling in a curved path from Oregon to South Carolina — it will still affect the Golden State, which has nearly half of the nation's solar-electricity-generating capacity, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

"The solar eclipse is farther north of us, but we will see between 50 [percent] and 75 percent of solar production from our solar plants reduced during that [time]" Greenlee told Live Science.

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