April’s eclipse will mean interruptions in solar power generation, which could strain electrical grids

Solar panels converting sunlight into electricity.

During the most recent total solar eclipse visible in the U.S., on Aug. 21, 2017, the skies darkened as the Moon crossed in front of the Sun. It blocked out all sunlight – except for that from a golden ring visible around the Moon’s shape, called the corona. Not surprisingly, solar power generation across North America plummeted for several hours, from the first moment the Moon began to obscure the Sun to when the Sun’s disk was clear again.

On April 8, 2024, another total solar eclipse will track across the U.S., causing perhaps an even greater loss of solar power generation. Although this will be the second total solar eclipse visible in the U.S. in under seven years, these events are a rare occurrence. Nevertheless, they present a unique challenge to power grid operators.

I am a space scientist with a passion for teaching physics and astronomy. Though I have seen many partial eclipses of the Sun, I have yet to witness a total solar eclipse. My road trip to Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah in October 2023 to see the “ring of fire” annular solar eclipse was unforgettable, and April 8 will surely find me handing out eclipse glasses once again.

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