The Solar Eclipse

Eclipse map courtesy of Fred Espenak – NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. Power supplies could drop suddenly next month when the UK is plunged into darkness with an eclipse of the sun. Energy experts warned there could be possible blackouts in the biggest solar eclipse since 1999.

Nearly 90 per cent of the sun’s rays will be blocked out in parts of Europe on March 20.

In London and the South East, 85 per cent of the sun will be obscured by the moon whilst in northern Scotland, more than 95 per cent will be covered.

The National Grid has warned that solar power output in Britain will halve during the event.

It is unlikely to cause problems as so little electricity comes from solar power im the UK but other parts of Europe come be plunged into darkness.

The European Network Transmission System Operators for Electricity said: “The risk of incident cannot be completely ruled out. Solar eclipses have happened before but with the increase of installed photovoltaic energy generation, the risk of an incident could be serious without appropriate countermeasures.”

The organisation said it had been planning for months so that suppliers across Europe provide more energy from other power stations during the hours that solar energy supplies are hit. Patrick Graichen, executive director of Agora Energiewende, a renewable energy think-tank in Berlin, said such events might become problematic in the future as more solar farms are built.

He told the Financial Times: “In a way March 20 is a glimpse into the future of our power systems.”

The eclipse will last around two hours from 8.40am. The next one will not be until 2026.

The UK’s leading group for beginners to stargazing, the Society for Popular Astronomy, has made a video with practical tips on how to observe the eclipse safely. It is presented by Lucie Green, from the BBC’s The Sky at Night.