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Solar Eclipse 2017! What does that mean for your Solar Powered home?

On August 21, the sun, moon and earth will be positioned in perfect alignment to cast a shadow across America from Oregon to South Carolina. The event is known as the Great American Solar Eclipse. An eclipse of this totality has not been experienced since 1918 (although TOTAL solar eclipses have happened since then, just not coast to coast. In 1979, there was a total solar eclipse in 5 states as opposed to the 2017 Great Solar Eclipse which is covering 12 states.).

What does a Total Solar Eclipse mean?

A Total Solar Eclipse means that the moon will be positioned between the Earth and the Sun such that it will block out the sun for a certain path across the land. It will render that area as if it were night time, fully covering the sun’s rays.

Will it be a Total Solar eclipse where I live?

If you’re reading this blog, most likely, not; as you’re probably in California. The Total Solar Eclipse will follow this path:

The full eclipse starts in Oregon and goes through Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina and finishes on the South Carolina coast.

However, don’t fret! As you can see in the graphic, there will be a partial solar eclipse in every of the lower 48 states. We here in California will be experiencing a partial eclipse for a few minutes. Here are the details:

Visalia, California
Expect to see the moon cover 70.5% of the sun. The moon will be in the sun’s path starting at 9:04am and continue for 2hours 38minutes. The best time to see the peak of the eclipse will be 10:19am.

Paso Robles, California
Expect to see the moon cover 67.6% of the sun. The moon will be in the sun’s path starting at 9:02am and continue for 2hours 36minutes. The best time to see the peak of the eclipse will be 10:17am.

What does that mean for my solar panel system?

Getting down to business…. it will have an effect, but not much. Here’s what Sunpower has to say:

For owners of photovoltaic (PV) solar power systems, this raises an interesting question: Am I going to generate enough solar energy to power my home that day? If you’re living in that narrow path of totality, you, of course, will not produce energy when the sun’s rays are completely blocked, but that’s just going to be for a couple of minutes. The partial eclipse, where a portion of the sun will be blocked, will last longer, depending upon where you live and the weather.

While it is true that a solar system generates less energy whenever the sun is not shining, SunPower solar customers can rest easy knowing their solar panels are the most efficient on the market. That means they’re better than conventional panels at capturing energy from the sun in low-light situations.

And, it’s not as if solar energy customers are left in the dark when the sun isn’t out. Solar systems work in tandem with the utility grid, so at night or other times when they’re not producing power, energy is provided by the grid. Because SunPower residential and business solar customers often produce more energy than they need during peak hours (thanks to those high-efficiency panels), when they do use grid power, they can pay for that electricity with credits they’ve already earned, so there are often little or no additional costs incurred during a cloudy day or a rare eclipse. (Learn more: How Net Metering Works.)

In other words, you might see a slight dip, but production will resume as usual after the eclipse passes by.

Alright, my system is fine, how can I experience this once in a century event?

First off, you’re in luck. If you can’t catch this one, there are going to be two more Total Solar Eclipses touching North America in 2024 and 2045 (this one will be in Northern California).

To view the Eclipse, NASA recommends to use special eclipse glasses. The reason for this is, as staring into the sun is dangerous on its own, during the eclipse the light is magnified and can permanently damage your eyes.

https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/safety

Purchase these special solar filters/glasses and view the partial solar eclipse in all its glory. Also, they sell filters for binoculars, telescopes and cameras. Make sure they are from reputable vendors, or you can damage your equipment, or worse, your eyes.