Austrian Power Grid: Well Prepared for the Partial Solar Eclipse

Today between 11:48 am and 1:18 pm the moon will move over the sun’s disk and cast its shadow on Earth. In Austria the shadowing will amount to approximately 4 percent.

Today, six years after the most recent one, a partial solar eclipse will occur that will affect all of Europe. In Denmark people will be able to observe a rather spectacular annular solar eclipse with a shadowing of 23 percent. In Austria the shadowing will only amount to approximately 4 percent. From the perspective of electricity generation, this means that if part of the sun is covered, less energy can be produced from photovoltaic plants.

“The solar eclipse will affect the electricity generation in Austria only minimally. It does not represent any danger for the security of supply in our country“, says Gerhard Christiner, APG’s CTO, and he explains the situation: “If we assume a maximum feed-in from PV plants, Austria will lose approximately 40 MW due to the partial solar eclipse, because the moon will temporarily cover part of the sun’s disk between 11:48 am and 1:18 pm and therefore there will be less sunlight. This equals the electricity needed for two international football matches with floodlighting at the Ernst Happel Stadium. This amount of shortfall can easily be balanced because it is very similar to the usual fluctuations in the grid.” The predicted decrease for the entire synchronized ENTSO-E area of continental European will be approximately amount to 4 GW assuming the worst case and an average shadowing of 10 percent. This corresponds to the average daily consumption of Slovakia.

PV increase from 2 to 11 MWh per year until 2030

To date 71 TWh electricity are produced in Austria per year. Approximately 2 TWh of this production volume come from PV plants. With the transformation of the energy system – until 2030 100 percent of the electricity demand are to be covered with green energy – a solar eclipse could potentially have more influence on the APG grid in the future. Austria’s Renewable Energy Expansion Act stipulates that until 2030 the capacities of green energy production are to be expanded by 27 TWh. Therefore the plan is to install and produce approximately 11 TWh additional PV capacity (10 TWh wind power, 5 TWh hydro-energy and 1 TWh biomass) by the end of 2030 in Austria. “Since green energy production with photovoltaic plants only pays off where there is lots of sun, we also need efficient, high-capacity transmission grids. Because in most of the cases the electricity has to be transported to where it is needed. To make sure that we will be able to do that we will invest 357 million euros in grid expansion and renovation in 2021, and a total of 3.1 billion euros over the next ten years“, states Christiner.

In addition to high-capacity transmission lines a lot of innovation will be necessary for a successful energy transition. The cooperation with various forecasting institutes is one example: due to joint research projects APG has already been able to successfully implement improvements in their forecasting. “In this context the key is to develop innovative and efficient ways which will enable us to jointly facilitate a sustainable energy industry of the future“, says Christiner.