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NEW DELHI: With the first solar eclipse of 2021 scheduled for later today, power grid operators across the world have geared up to manage the shock which would result from the sudden drop and surge in generation when the celestial event occurs.

The much anticipated annular solar eclipse, expected to be viewed in the northern hemisphere, occurs when the moon comes between the sun and the earth, but doesn't cover the former completely, leaving the sun's visible outer edges to appear as a ‘ring of fire’. This leads to a drop in solar irradiance which impacts power generation. Any sudden change in demand pattern impacts the power grid frequency.

According to the US space agency NASA, people in parts of Canada, Greenland, northern Russia, Caribbean, Europe, Asia, and northern Africa will be able to view the event.

In India, the solar eclipse will be visible only from some parts of Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh.

This comes in the backdrop of India planning to build 23-gigawatt (GW) grid connected solar projects in the union territory of Ladakh. Eclipses occur every year, but annular solar eclipses are not common. India has experienced three solar eclipses in the past ten years—on 22 July 2009, 15 January 2010 and 26 December 2019.

India's electricity grid operators run one of the world's most complex power grid that is also connected to Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan. India has been able to manage such fluctuations in grid frequency by leveraging the country’s hydropower stations. Hydropower plays a key role as it provides the flexibility of a quick generation ramp up and down as such stations take the least time to switch on or off.

India is running the world’s largest clean energy programme to achieve 175 GW of renewable capacity, including 100GW of solar power. India’s peak electricity demand fell during the first and the second wave, with commercial and industrial demand taking a hit after many factories closed.

According to ICICI Securities Equity Research, India’s peak power demand has gone up from 155GW-160GW during third week of May to 170-175GW now. The country registered a record high of 189.6GW in January.

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