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Ontario prepares for solar eclipse to put pressure on electricity grid

Energy officials in Ontario are preparing for Monday’s historic total and partial eclipse to hurt output from its solar panels, with other sources of electricity on standby.

The Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), which runs Ontario’s energy grid, said solar energy output could drop by as much as 1,800 megawatts as a result of the eclipse.

Ontario is one of several areas in North America waiting for a total and partial eclipse on April 8, when the moon will obscure the sun between roughly 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.

Some areas, like Niagara Falls and Kingston, are on the path of totality and will see a brief period of total darkness, while other places will see the sun’s rays reduced.

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Energy Minister Todd Smith said the province is prepared if the eclipse does reduce the amount of solar electricity generated in the province.

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“Ontario is lucky to have a diverse electricity system that includes nuclear, hydroelectric, renewables, biomass and natural gas, which is our insurance policy to keep the lights on — if needed — during an event like a solar eclipse,” he said in a video posted to social media.

“Mark your calendars Ontario and prepare to witness history in the making — with the comfort of knowing Ontario’s grid is prepared.”

The IESO said it was “working closely” with weather forecasters to work out the impact of the celestial event and would rely on “other sources of generation (to) step in to compensate” for reduced solar electricity.

The event will make waves across Ontario on Monday, with a state of emergency proactively declared in Niagara Region with as many as one million visitors expected to descend upon Niagara Falls. Other places like Kingston and the Peterborough area are also preparing for large crowds.

Traffic on major roads could be challenging with the surge in visitors, while a series of Ontario school boards have rearranged professional development days to close classrooms and avoid students heading home when the eclipse itself is taking place.

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