Since the beginning of June, there have been large wildfires burning across Canada. According to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Center, there are currently 416 fires active in Canada. 215 are considered “out-of-control.”
The thick smoke that blanketed Northeast United States has caused air quality warnings. It has also reduced solar power production in the United States by more than 50%.
According to New England’s grid operator, solar farms were producing 56% less electricity during times of peak demand than the previous week.
ISO New England is the operator of New England’s energy grid. They said that smoke from Canadian wildfires has reached New England in recent days. This smoke has significantly reduced the production from solar resources compared to ISO New England’s expectations without the smoke. ”
The smoke also reduced the actual temperatures in New England, compared with what the weather models predicted,” read the statement. “This results in a lower demand on regional grids as air conditioning is not needed as much.” ”
ISO New England concluded that “These two factors – decreased production of solar resources and reduced consumer demand due lower temperatures – has made forecasting grid electricity demand challenging.” ”
Matt Kakley is a spokesperson from ISO-New England, the energy grid operator. He told Bloomberg that this situation is “really unheard of,” and added, “We haven’t had a lot to go back on. We are learning in real time.” ”
The reduction in production has not led to any power outages. This is primarily because solar power does not dominate the local electricity supply.
In New England, solar power is responsible for only 3% of the electricity generated. The rest comes from natural gas (52%), nuclear (26%), and other sources.
The smoke from wildfires in Canada also affected other states.
PJM Interconnection LLC which supplies electricity to 13 states, from Illinois to North Carolina noted that solar energy production had dropped by about 25% from the previous week.
Dan Lockwood, a PJM spokesperson, stated, “Smoky weather conditions in the RTO have reduced visibility and solar energy, causing temperatures to be several degrees below normal. ”
New York’s energy grid manager New York ISO said, “Based upon data compiled and forecasted by New York ISO, smoke from Canada fires blocking sunlight caused a combined reduction of peak solar energy output of 1,466MW on June 6-7. This resulted in an overall peak production for two days of 4,405MW. ”
In Australia, previous wildfires also led to a decrease in solar energy production.
Solar Analytics, a company that monitors solar energy, discovered that solar power production in Sydney and Canberra, Australia, “plummeted by 15 to 45%” on days with heavy smoke haze. “