During the Aug. 21 solar eclipse, the moon will block more than 90 percent of the Carolinas’ sunshine.
According to an article in Illumination, Duke Energy’s publication, solar energy production in the state will dramatically decrease as demand for lighting increases while the sun hides behind the moon from about 1 to 3 p.m.
This is normally a peak time for solar energy production, and Sammy Roberts, Duke Energy director of system operations, estimates solar energy output will drop from about 2,500 megawatts to 200 megawatts in one-and-a-half hours.
The article states that during the Aug. 21 eclipse, about 98 percent of sunlight will be blocked at Duke Energy’s new 500-acre solar plant in Monroe, which has given operators a challenge.
To compensate for the loss of solar energy, operators will have natural gas plants ready to step in during the eclipse. In addition to replacing the lost energy with a flexible fuel source, operators can gradually decrease solar production before the sky darkens depending on weather conditions, Roberts said, which would allow them to slowly increase natural gas energy production.
On a sunny day, North Carolina’s panels can produce enough energy to power nearly 600,000 homes.
Duke Energy manages energy from more than three quarters of the roughly 3,200 megawatts of solar power in North Carolina, but because it has a diverse mix of energy sources and a plan in place, Roberts said the company expects to meet customer demand during the eclipse.