Apr 19, 2018 | Updated: 09:54 AM EDT

Biggest Solar Eclipse Since 1999 to Plunge UK Into Darkness

Feb 27, 2015 01:33 PM EST

The biggest solar eclipse since 1999 will plunge parts of Europe into darkness this March and will be visible for approximately 90 minutes. On the morning of March 20, the Moon will partially cover the Sun, casting a large shadow over Earth. Britain last saw such an eclipse 15 years back.  

Despite being partial, the eclipse is capable of blocking over 90% of the Sun's light. 94% of the Sun's rays will be blocked in Scotland. In the darkest areas, 98% of the Sun's light will be blocked at approximately 09:30 CET in the morning. The path of this year's eclipse is up to 303 miles (487 kms) wide, a surprisingly wide track.

"The UK will see this eclipse as a deep partial eclipse. Skies will darken for any location where the maximum obscuration exceeds 95 per cent which includes north-western Scotland, the Hebrides, Orkneys and Shetland Islands," said Steve Bell of the HM Nautical Almanac Office.

This being the case, renewable energy production will likely be heavily affected since the reliance on solar power is greater than ever before. Since 1999, the use of solar power has increased from .1% to 10.5% in Europe.

"Under a clear morning sky on 20 March 2015, some 35,000 MW of solar energy, which is the equivalent of nearly 80 medium size conventional generation units, will gradually fade from Europe's electrical system before being gradually re-injected: all in the space of two hours while Europeans and their offices begin a normal working week day," said the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity.

"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," they further added.

Patrick Graichen, Executive Director of Agora Energiewende, a renewable energy think-tank in Berlin, told Financial Times: "In a way March 20 is a glimpse into the future of our power systems."

Looking directly at the Sun with the naked eye can cause blindness or lead to serious vision damage. The Sun's UV rays can burn the retinas in your eyes leading to blindness. It is advisable to use solar glasses or a solar telescope to view the eclipse.

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