How will the eclipse affect solar energy production in North Carolina?

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — “It’s a very strange phenomenon, happens once in a lifetime to a lot of people,” said Duke Energy spokesman Randy Wheeless.

Less than two weeks from now, much of the country will experience darkness in the middle of the day.

During this period, solar power companies are forced to make changes.

“We’re going to keep the energy grid stable, make sure people enjoy the solar eclipse,” said Wheeless.

What you may not know is that North Carolina is a leader in solar power production.

“A lot of it is in eastern North Carolina where you have a lot of farmland that was growing tobacco, soybeans over the course of the last 50 years. A lot of those farmers maybe got out of the tobacco business and went into the solar business, so they lease land to solar companies like us and others to build these solar farms,” said Wheeless.

On August 21st, companies like Duke Energy will switch from solar to other renewable energy resources like natural gas and hydroelectric.

Wheeless says up to two thousand megawatts of solar energy could be lost within a couple of hours. That’s enough to power the homes of a quarter of a million people.

“What we’re doing now is planning for what power plants we have in reserve that can come on quickly to take up that slack from solar and then can ramp down when the solar’s coming back up,” said Wheeless.

Wheeless says the challenge is keeping the energy grid balanced.

“When you lose a lot of solar or power all at once, the grid likes it smooth, so we have to be able to interject new power into the system to make sure the grid is operating evenly and so customers have power regardless, before and after the eclipse,” said Wheeless.

So when the sky goes black, you don’t need to worry. Your lights will stay bright.

Join us August 21st at 2 p.m. for our special eclipse coverage. It will stream live on our website and our social media platforms so you can take it outside with you and interact with us. You won’t want to miss it.

Categories: Local, New Hanover

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