Solar eclipse presents first major test of power grid in renewable era

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In this Aug. 17, 2017 photo, Solar Tech Joshua Valdez, left, and Senior Plant Manager Tim Wisdom walk past solar panels at a Pacific Gas and Electric Solar Plant, in Dixon, California. Power grid managers say they've been preparing extensively for more than a year for this Monday's solar eclipse and that by ramping up other sources of power, mainly hydroelectric and natural gas, they are confident nobody will lose power or see a spike in energy prices. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
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In this Aug. 17, 2017 photo, electrical power flow and conditions are monitored at the Pacific Gas & Electric grid control center, in Vacaville, California. Power grid managers say they've been preparing extensively for more than a year for this Monday's solar eclipse and that by ramping up other sources of power, mainly hydroelectric and natural gas, they are confident nobody will lose power or see a spike in energy prices. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Updated 19 August 2017
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Solar eclipse presents first major test of power grid in renewable era

HOUSTON, US: As Monday’s total solar eclipse sweeps from Oregon to South Carolina, US electric power and grid operators will be glued to their monitoring systems in what for them represents the biggest test of the renewable energy era.
Utilities and grid operators have been planning for the event for years, calculating the timing and drop in output from solar, running simulations of the potential impact on demand, and lining up standby power sources. It promises a critical test of their ability to manage a sizeable swing in renewable power.
Solar energy now accounts for more than 42,600 megawatts (MW), about 5 percent of the US’s peak demand, up from 5 MW in 2000, according to the North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC), a group formed to improve the nation’s power system in the wake of a 1964 blackout. When the next eclipse comes to the United States in 2024, solar will account for 14 percent of the nation’s power, estimates NERC.
For utilities and solar farms, the eclipse represents an opportunity to see how well prepared their systems are to respond to rapid swings in an era where variable energy sources such as solar and wind are climbing in scale and importance.
Power companies view Monday’s event as a “test bed” on how power systems can manage a major change in supply, said John Moura, director of reliability assessment and system analysis at the North American Electric Reliability Corp.
“It has been tested before, just not at this magnitude,” adds Steven Greenlee, a spokesman for the California Independent System Operator (CISO), which controls routing power in the nation’s most populous state.
CISO estimates that at the peak of the eclipse, the state’s normal solar output of about 8,800 MW will be reduced to 3,100 MW and then surge to more than 9,000 MW when the sun returns.
CISO’s preparation includes studying how German utilities dealt with a 2015 eclipse in that country. Its review prompted the grid overseer to add an additional 200 MW to its normal 250 MW power reserves.
“We’ve calculated that during the eclipse, that solar will ramp off at about 70 MW per minute,” said Greenlee. “And then we’ll see the solar rolling back at about 90 MW per minute or more.”
Power utilities say the focus will be on managing a rapid drop off and accommodate the solar surge post the eclipse. Utility executives say they do not expect any interruption in service, but are prepared to ask customers to pare usage if a problem arises.
“We want to assure our customers that we have secured enough resources to meet their energy needs, even with significantly less solar generation on hand,” said Caroline Winn, chief operating officer at utility San Diego Gas & Electric Co.
In the Eastern United States, utilities will have more time to watch the results of their Western counterparts. PJM Interconnection, which coordinates electricity transmission among 13 states from Michigan to North Carolina, says non-solar sources such as hydro and fossil fuel can easily supplant the 400 MW to 2,500 MW solar loss, depending on the cloud cover.
For small-scale solar providers, the eclipse is a drop in the revenue bucket. Ron Strom, a North Carolina real estate developer, sells the power from a 58 kilovolt system atop a commercial property in Chapel Hill to Duke Energy.
“The event may cost me eighteen cents or thereabouts if my panels don’t produce solar for three hours,” said Strom. (Additional reporting by Nichola Groom in Los Angeles; editing by Diane Craft)


Cape Verde opens investigation after migrant boat sails to Brazil

Updated 8 min 6 sec ago
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Cape Verde opens investigation after migrant boat sails to Brazil

  • Foreign Affairs Minister Luis Filipe: “There were no Cape Verdeans on board but because the ship began its crossing in Cape Verde we are going to investigate so that other cases do not occur.”
  • There were 25 migrants — all men — on the boat and two Brazilians, reportedly suspected of being people traffickers.

PRAIA: Cape Verde has opened an investigation after 25 African migrants were found off the coast of Brazil after reportedly spending five weeks at sea.
The country’s Foreign Affairs Minister Luis Filipe said the migrant boat started its great journey in the west African archipelago.
“There were no Cape Verdeans on board but because the ship began its crossing in Cape Verde we are going to investigate so that other cases do not occur,” Filipe Tavaras said on TV Wednesday night.
On Saturday, local fishermen found the catamaran, flying the Haitian flag, drifting off the Brazilian coastal town of Sao Jose de Ribamar, south of the Amazon river, the Brazilian navy said.
There were 25 migrants — all men — on the boat and two Brazilians, reportedly suspected of being people traffickers.
The migrants came from Guinea, Nigeria and Senegal on the other side of the Atlantic, the human rights department for Brazil’s state of Maranhao said in a statement.
They had reportedly spent 35 days afloat but there was no immediate indication of what route they had taken.
Brazilian police will investigate possible crimes committed against the migrants and evaluate their legal situation.
Cape Verde, a group of nine inhabited volcanic islands, lies some 500 kilometers (300 miles) off the west African countries of Guinea-Bissau and Senegal.
The islands gained independence from Portugal in 1975, after an 11-year liberation war.