By now, most of us have heard about the spectacular Total Solar Eclipse that will grace the skies of North America on Monday, August 21; it was last seen in the northwestern region of the U.S. in 1979. But amid all the excitement and talk of special glasses, road trips and sold out motels, have you thought about what California’s related partial eclipse will do to its sun-powered energy grid? The eclipse is expected to occur from 9:02 a.m. to 11:54 a.m., with the moon blocking 58 to 76 percent of solar rays (depending on location), and causing a loss of 4,194 megawatts (MW) of California’s large-scale solar electricity. That’s a lot of energy!
Fortunately the people at California’s Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) have been thinking ahead and have come up with an ingenious way for all of us to give the sun some time off, while ensuring that there is no interruption to our power supply.
The Do Your Thing for the Sun campaign and CMC’s Sustainability Team encourage us all to reduce our electricity use from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. during the eclipse. This will allow California to burn fewer fossil fuels and emit fewer greenhouse gas emissions when California’s solar energy production dips during the eclipse. In addition to helping our power grid, this will be good for our air quality as well as for our planet.
According to CPUC President Michael Picker, “We have plenty of wind, geothermal, hydro, and natural gas to make sure the grid runs smoothly during the solar eclipse, but we also have a lot of Californians who want to do their California thing and step in to help replace the sun when it takes a break. When we come together to do one small thing to reduce energy usage, we can have a major impact on our environment.”
California is known for doing its thing when it comes to conservation and energy efficiency. The state has the second lowest per capita electricity consumption rates in the country. But we can do more, all the time, not just when there are extraordinary events. The CalEclipse and PG&E websites offer tips to help reduce usage in a home setting, such as:
Be a “vampire” slayer. The morning of the eclipse, unplug the things that are “always on” but don't need to be….things like coffee makers, televisions, computers, and other gadgets (but not the refrigerator!). Twenty-three percent of the electricity used to power home electronics is consumed while the products are turned off (what we call “vampires”). The average U.S. household spends $100 per year to power devices while they are off or in standby mode.
Switch to LEDs. If possible before the eclipse, change at least half of your lightbulbs to LEDs. Upgrading to LED light bulbs will use at least 75 percent less energy and last 25 times longer than “old fashioned” incandescents. And, of course, make sure all unnecessary lights are off during the eclipse!
Turn up (or even off) your air conditioner. You can save a lot of energy by just nudging your air conditioning thermostat up by three degrees if you are home. If you are not home, you’ll save a lot more by just turning it off. If you must leave it on for your pet(s), according to many veterinarians, they will be perfectly comfortable at 80 degrees. Closing the curtains or shades will help keep your home cool on a warm day.
Wait to wash. Use high energy consuming devices, such as dish-washers, after 9 at night
If you’re at work here at CMC during the eclipse (9 a.m. – 11 a.m.), and you’re in an area that wouldn’t affect patient care, you can help by:
Turning off unnecessary lights
Not charging your personal electronic devices during this time
Unplugging appliances not in use (e.g. microwave, coffee maker, TV, etc.)
Turning up the thermostat in non-patient care areas by 2-5 degrees
For additional information about Do Your Thing for the Sun and for more tips to help reduce energy usage during the eclipse and year-round, check out the CalEclipse and PG&E websites.
Working 24/7, like many health care workers, our beautiful sun provides us with light, warmth and energy. Let’s join our fellow Californians in giving it a few hours off on August 21st as it dazzles and delights millions of people by hiding its splendor behind the moon temporarily.
If you interested in learning about sustainability initiatives and becoming a Green Champion as an employee at Community, contact Rhonda Hightower.
By Connie Young, Sustainability Coordinator for the Sustainability Value Analysis Team