Forecast March-2015 Solar Eclipse Has Power Grid Operators Distressed…”Dangerously Destabilized”

One thing we can be predicted with very high certainty: On March, 20, 2015 most of Germany will see a partial yet substantial eclipse of the sun.

40 gigawatts of rated power blocked in just minutes!

Normally that would be no big deal. But for the first time in history, due to Germany’s massive installed solar capacity of 40 gigawatts, an eclipse of the sun could mean a collapse of Germany’s intense power grid, with possible ramifications for the European power network.


Animation: A. T. Sinclair/NASA (

Today’s print edition of Spiegel features an entire story on the coming event, should skies be clear. At it’s online site here it gives a preview of the upcoming event, writing:

The German power grid operators are dreading March 20, 2015. On this day Germany will see a partial solar eclipse during the morning. Should there be no clouds in the sky at this time, all solar power generating systems all over the country would be feeding in drastically less power into the grid in just a matter of minutes – and the grids would become dangerously destabilized.”

Already grid operators are scrambling to avoid such a scenario, and are considering refusing the feed in the power of large solar power plants on that day. Even though the eclipse will sweep across Europe around mid morning, a time well below peak solar power production, no large enough conventional back up system is on hand to react that quickly and that massively on such short notice. Another possibility would be to request large energy consumers in industry to scale back their consumption for the period the eclipse will have an impact.

German T-Online writes:

The shadow of the solar eclipse on March 20, 2015 will sweep across the North Atlantic. Thus in North Germany almost 83% of the sun will be blocked, so reports the website In South Germany it will still be at least 67%. Starting at 50 percent coverage, a solar eclipse is easy to notice.”

12 responses to “Forecast March-2015 Solar Eclipse Has Power Grid Operators Distressed…”Dangerously Destabilized””

  1. Kurt in Switzerland

    Why not just ramp up the coal and gas plants (while scaling down the solar sources) a day early? Then reverse the process one day later.

    Problem is, who pays for the exercise?
    Why the rate payers, of course.

    PV promoters would do well to cease from claiming their power gen technology is plentiful and inexpensive. It’s only plentiful when least needed and is decidedly costly – most certainly a key reason Germany’s power rates are among the highest on the planet.

    Kurt in Switzerland

  2. Stephen Richards

    Whether they stop the SP feed in or not they still have to pay the operators. So they should just crank up the coal power, of which they have a massive amount, and pay the scammer what they want.

  3. DirkH

    Well Spiegel is distracting from the real problem. Pressured by USA, EU declared sanctions against Gazprom et al. This might finally convince the Russians that turning off the gas to EU is necessary to make the EU Kommissars come to their senses.
    NatGas of course is the one thing Germany needs to balance the wind and solar power surges.

    THAT’s the risk. Not a 100% plannable solar outage.
    Spiegel – stupid, evil, or both?

    1. DirkH

      …EU Kommissars hesitate…
      …can’t even do a Harakiri…

    2. Kurt in Switzerland

      I agree, Dirk. The solar eclipse is a non-issue. Russian gas supply is a major issue.

      If the current path is pursued, Europe will be burning more coal this Winter than anytime over the past two decades. Since natural gas from Russia is crucial to almost all of E. Europe, a consistent supply is necessary, especially if the Winter is harsh. Gas stocks as well as other energy sources can compensate somewhat for a Russian cut-back, but the reality is stark. Europe needs Russia more than Russia needs Europe.

      Like you, I believe that Russia will win the poker game against the Eurocrats.

  4. Graeme No.3

    I wonder what they do if a weather front rolls in with clouds? Does the sun shine all the time on german solar panels. Perhaps the wind will pick up as the light fades.

    Seriously, this highlights (no pun intended) one of the problems of relying on an intermittent sources of electricity. At low levels the grid will handle them, but it is folly to allow them to ever supply more than 10% of demand.

  5. Walter H. Schneider

    Well, I doubt it that it will be any more dangerous than Y2K was. After all, there is a good chance that the skies will be cloudy that time of the year.

    Moreover, the advantage provide by the eclipse is that it can be forecast right down to the minute, years in advance, whereas no one is absolutely sure about what happens with clouds, given the great uncertainties of the weather forecasts even only hours in advance of when clouds happen to roll in or the skies will clear.

  6. John F. Hultquist

    This episode is both predictable and solvable. It will be good learning experience and likely quite costly. That’s the simple part. Dirk’s concerns are another matter. Real issues and not much to go on. Good Luck.
    This brings up another possible episode (though not likely in Germany) involving explosive volcanic eruptions. When Mount St. Helens went off, we lived 250 miles east. This site gives an overview:

    Moving at an average speed of about 60 miles an hour, the cloud reached Yakima, Washington, by 9:45 a.m. PDT and Spokane, Washington, by 11:45 a.m.

    Check the map and the small photo (left side) taken in eastern Washington. We saw this, and then the sky went completely black. This was before they planted wind towers all over the region. Makes one wonder.

    1. John F. Hultquist

      Wind towers!? Must have had a senior moment! Not too much solar in the region. But having written wind towers – I now wonder how and what fine volcanic ash will do to either?

  7. DirkH

    For first time in history since introduction of renewables subsidy regime, electricity prices might sink next year, Spiegel reports, cites a pro-renewables “Think tank” i.e. lobbyists.
    All betting except sports bets are criminalized in Germany, otherwise I would bet 1,000 EUR against it happening. From 20% growth each year to standstill or negative? Ludicrous. This is a typical lie to keep the proles asleep while mugging them even harder.

  8. Bernd Felsche

    I doubt it’d have much effect on the grid.

    The timing is more convenient than inconvenient. The penumbra begins to cover Europe early in the day and is over Germany by mid-morning and gone before solar noon. That typically before most non-tracking PV becomes effective. Europe will only experience a partial eclipse. Not total.

    It’ll also be mid-March when cloud cover is more than likely. A couple of years ago, most PV in Germany were still covered by snow at that time of the year. This year was fortunately different. (Lucky for me anyway as I didn’t have to cope with snow/slush during a brief visit.)

    If skies happen to be clear, then the “surge” from actual increased exposure at the trailing penumbra will still take about an hour to progress over the whole country. Typical weather system can have produce more dramatic fluctuations on a regional basis, but not over the whole country. I suspect that, despite the German infrastructure “progressively” becoming as decrepid as that of the former GDR, that the grid will be able to cope; as long as the Russian gas keeps flowing.

    Were people really “worried” about the energy consequences, they would declare it a public holiday; and damn the health effects of people having the time to look up at the sky and possibly suffer damage to their eyes from looking directly at the sun.

    The story in Der Spiegel is a media beat-up. The necessary fright that they wish to impart is that 40GW of solar power will be switched off and on in “an instant”. Not only is that physically unrealistic; the output of PV solar at that time of year/day is well below the 40GW nameplate rating.

  9. Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #149 | Watts Up With That?

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