The eclipse was a test, and the solar industry aced it.
As the United States momentarily plunged into darkness on Tuesday, from California to North Carolina, the electricity grid ran smoothly — despite the loss of a predicted 12,000 megawatts of solar power supplies.
“Things went really, really well,” said Eric Schmitt, vice president of California’s grid operator, at a press briefing.
Prior to the eclipse, some utilities were worried the temporary dip in solar resources might put strain on the grid. But others saw it a “dress rehearsal” for how the renewable-heavy system of the future might handle such disruptions. As solar and wind resources fluctuate with the weather — as opposed to fossil fuels, which can be burned continuously — it’s important to establish that they can reliably meet America’s energy needs.
For reference, solar made up just 1 percent of the electricity produced in the country in 2016. It reached the 2-percent milestone for the first time in March this year.
So, the eclipse came and went, but solar power — fresh off this small proof-of-principle — appears to be here to stay.