On Monday, members of the Waypoint team across the country paused to appreciate the much-anticipated solar eclipse. It seems like everyone and their mother was outside to watch the eclipse – whether you were in the path of totality or not, we can all agree it was awesome.
At headquarters in San Francisco, Waypointers gathered on the roof hoping to catch a glimpse through the fog. Equipped with eclipse glasses, binoculars, and breakfast bagels, we watched as the moon’s shadow eventually covered 75 percent of the sun.
Excitement at Waypoint didn’t wane once the eclipse ended. The very next day, Waypoint eagerly discussed the fallout of the eclipse: what did we learn about the ability of grid operators to balance electric load across California in response to a rapid and drastic decrease in energy supply from solar sources? At Waypoint, we love talking energy and we love talking about reliability across a smarter, more resilient grid. Many sources speculated that the eclipse would cut California’s solar power output by roughly half over the full period of the moon’s shadow obscuring the sun. The impact would be significant: on some days, solar power supplies nearly 40 percent of the total electric load.
After the fact, data from the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) helped to shed some light on the effects of the eclipse. It showed that renewable generation did in fact dip significantly during the nearly two-hour event. Conversely, demand increased over the same period. To compensate for the loss of solar generation, CAISO relied on energy from flexible hydropower generation and natural gas plants. Though the eclipse passed without a major hitch in the grid this time around, Waypoint will continue to analyze the implications for grid reliability that will be increasingly challenged to incorporate variable supply from renewable sources.
What will our power mix look like in 2024 when we experience the next total solar eclipse? At Waypoint, we’re excited to work to make energy efficiency and clean energy targets a reality. You can bet we’ll be on our company’s rooftop checking it out 7 years from now with glasses, cameras, and bagels in hand.