Stood on the front wall wearing solar protective glasses, my 9 year old self curiously witnessed the phenomenon of the last solar eclipse back in 1999, a time when Tony Blair was still Prime Minister, solar power made up only 0.1% of Europe’s renewable energy generation and 58 million people across the UK became gripped by the spectacle of the moon crossing the sun.
Whilst I at the time was preoccupied by the excitement of school holidays, many urban myths began circulating amongst the superstitious: myths that the moon could potentially overpower the sun, casting our planet in to a state of eternal darkness or that the crossing of the moon over the sun was a sign from God that “the end was near”. Well, perhaps this was all a little far-fetched as the world did not in fact end in 1999, as here we are, 16 years on, eagerly awaiting the rarest event in the cosmos.
With the latest Solar Eclipse just a few hours away, Its interesting to reflect on the huge changes the last 16 years have brought to the UK and our energy use: Tony Blair left Downing Street over 8 years ago, solar power now makes up over 10.5% of Europe’s renewable energy generation and over 64 million people across the UK still continue to be captivated by the celestial phenomenon. Whilst a lot has changed over the past 16 years, bizarre myths of giant space frogs consuming the sun and fears for the end of the world still persist, and have found a new lease of life to a global audience via Facebook and Twitter.
So whilst the superstitious amongst us once again plummet in to a sense of hysteria, most of us will accept the event as nothing more than a dazzling display of nature and will wait patiently to see it. Though the whole event will last only a few hours, experts have calculated that the Moon’s needy intrusion on our day will cause us to miss out on a stunning 35,000 megawatts of solar energy. The National Grid is prepared for this and have assured consumers that there will be no issues, but it demonstrates how, in less than a generation, solar power has become an integral part of our nation’s infrastructure.
The solar eclipse will be most visible towards the North of England, beginning at around 8am and peaking at about 9.30 — before the sun comes back at about 11am. So, while you’re looking out for this incredible natural phenomenon (remember never to look directly at the sun!) – don’t panic, it will only affect your solar panels temporarily.
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