What impact did the eclipse have on Austin Energy’s solar power?


As the Moon traversed the face of the sun on Monday and Austin residents trained their heads toward the spectacular phenomenon, the partial eclipse did not darken skies across Texas — but it had a very real effect on solar power.

Nowhere in West Texas saw a total eclipse, but Austin Energy saw a brief but significant decrease in power generation from the solar fields it contracts with to provide solar power.

According to Austin Energy, solar power generation dipped 68 percent below the peak normal on Monday. Between 12:40 p.m. and 1 p.m., the amount of energy being produced by solar panels was 127 megawatts, far below the 400 megawatt average.

“We can see the same kind of production drops during the passing of clouds, but the drops don’t last as long,” Austin Energy spokesman Robert Cullick said.

Initial data gathered by Austin Energy’s market operations desk found that in total, solar generation came up about 705 megawatt-hours short because of the eclipse. (An average residential customer with Austin Energy uses about 1 megawatt-hour each year).

RELATED: A ‘volatile’ market: How Austin Energy traders buy, sell power

Texas’ electrical grid never faltered. The amount of power that dropped off was relatively small and had no impact on operations, Austin Energy officials said, noting the city utility also produces power though wind farms, fossil-fuel plants and a nuclear plant.

The eclipse had very little impact on how much the utility spent buying energy on Monday. But it did provide some valuable insights to Austin Energy, which buys power from a 1.2 million solar panel facility and a 700,000 solar panel facility in Pecos County, and has contracts with two more West Texas solar fields set to open within next year or so.

“In general, plants with more than a million panels in Texas are new and we’re growing in our understanding of how they operate in different kinds of weather and meteorological conditions,” Cullick said. “We’re pioneers when it comes to Texas solar. These kinds of events give us a better idea of what to expect as the grid grows more solar-dependent.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

‘Horns up’ in the Children’s Hospital
‘Horns up’ in the Children’s Hospital

University of Texas football players Tim Yoder, Michael Wilson and Kendall Moore get their “horns up” with future Longhorn Dylan Martinez at St. David’s Children’s Hospital. The football players visited sick children and their families to lift their spirits.
Poll: 49% of Texans disapprove of Trump, but GOP support strong

Nearly half of Texans disapprove of Donald Trump’s performance as president, but Republicans overwhelmingly support him, according to a University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll released Thursday. Among Republicans, 79 percent said they approved of Trump’s performance, while 15 percent disapprove. The rest of the GOP respondents said they...
DPS: Driver, 18, dies in crash after police chase near Granite Shoals

BURNET COUNTY Police chase ends with fatal crash A police chase ended with the death of an 18-year-old driver near Granite Shoals early Thursday, authorities said. According to a Texas Department of Public Safety statement, a preliminary investigation found that Cruz Grimaldo Suarez was fleeing from police around 3:30 a.m. in Burnet County. He was...
Austin man accused of killing girlfriend disappears ahead of trial
Austin man accused of killing girlfriend disappears ahead of trial

A Travis County murder defendant who is set to go to trial next week has disappeared after he failed to report to a pretrial hearing on Thursday. Authorities issued an arrest warrant for Kevin Michael Waguespack, who was out of jail on $250,000 bond. He is accused of killing his girlfriend Catherine Dyer, 31, in November 2015 in the home they shared...
Appeals court halts, for now, abortion for teen immigrant in Texas
Appeals court halts, for now, abortion for teen immigrant in Texas

One day after a federal judge ordered the Trump administration to allow a teenage immigrant in the country without authorization to have an abortion in Texas, an appeals court temporarily blocked the order and set oral arguments for Friday morning on whether to allow the procedure to occur. The order by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District...
More Stories