Mother Nature provided a test of one of the more controversial ideas tossed around by the energy and environmental staff installed by President Trump. Here’s their question: Do recent changes to way power is generated in the United States — namely, more solar and wind, less coal and nuclear — mean the nation’s grid operators will not have enough power plants to meet electricity needs when the wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shining? The concern over grid reliability got a real-world test when the moon cast its shadow across the continental United States from Oregon to South Carolina, dampening solar energy generation in the top two states for solar capacity — California and North Carolina. The eclipse went off without a hitch for the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), which delivers 80 percent of the electricity in a state that has more solar energy capacity than every other state in the country combined. Things shook out similarly in North Carolina. There, Duke Energy had readied natural gas-fired generators to make up for lost solar power in a state second only to California in total solar capacity. Though only the western toe of the Tar Heel State saw a total eclipse, Duke, the state’s main electricity supplier, lost 1,700 of its 2,500 megawatts of solar capacity at its height.
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