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

1 / 2
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)
2 / 2
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
0

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)


Catholic priest stabbed live on TV at Canada's biggest church

Updated 13 min 4 sec ago
0

Catholic priest stabbed live on TV at Canada's biggest church

  • The priest was celebrating mass at Montreal’s St. Joseph’s Oratory when a tall man approached and stabbed him
  • Security guards and other churchgoers quickly restrained the suspect and was arrested by police

MONTREAL: A Canadian Catholic priest was stabbed in front of dozens of stunned worshippers as he was celebrating mass Friday morning at Montreal’s St. Joseph’s Oratory.
Montreal police said a 911 call was placed at around 8:40 a.m. local time. When officers arrived at the landmark church, a male suspect was already detained by security guards.
Philip Barrett, who was sitting near the front of the church, said he saw a tall man, who appeared to be a Caucasian in his 30s, rise from a pew and quickly walk to attack Rev. Claude Grou, the Oratory’s rector.
“He walked over behind the altar and he seemed to strike the priest’s body,” Barrett said. “I think the priest fell down at that time. I do remember the priest was moving away from the man but it happened so quickly there was almost no time to react.”
The service was live-streamed on a Catholic channel. Video shows a tall man in a dark jacket and white baseball cap rounding the altar and charging at Grou as he thrusts his right arm toward the priest. Grou runs backward a few steps before the assailant pushes him into a banner.
As screams are heard in the background, a group of people run forward, surrounding and blocking the suspect.

Barrett said people quickly restrained the suspect, who did not struggle. He said the suspect didn’t speak or call out during the attack.
There was no other information immediately available about why the priest may have been attacked.
Police spokeswoman Caroline Chevrefils says the victim suffered minor injuries to his upper body and was taken to the hospital.
The suspect was to be questioned by police Friday morning.
Barrett said Grou crumpled to the ground after the attack, but he appeared to be conscious and alert about 15 minutes later when paramedics wheeled him to an ambulance.
He said members of the congregation immediately began praying.
“We’re reassured, because when he left the oratory he was conscious and could talk, which we see as a good sign,” said Celine Barbeau, a spokeswoman for the church.
St. Joseph’s Oratory is among Canada’s largest churches, and pilgrims from all over the world are drawn to its domed roof and stunning architecture.
Barrett said that he, like the rest of the roughly 60 people present, was shocked that an attack would happen in a place he has come to see as a haven.
“I really find it’s a welcoming place,” he said. “I just hope that as a result of this, I mean, I can imagine they’re going to need more security, but I hope they can still keep that welcoming spirit.”