Some are predicting the big total eclipse this week could be one of the busiest days of traffic ever. More from Visual Capitalist on the economic impact below
On August 21st, millions of Americans will migrate to towns along the path of the upcoming solar eclipse. The Great American Eclipse will stretch over 12 states, and it’s already being called the greatest temporary mass migration to see a natural event in U.S. history.
The last total eclipse occurred in the United States in 1979, and businesses are cashing in on the pent-up enthusiasm for this extremely rare celestial event.
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Here are some high payoffs that “eclipse boom towns” are hoping for:
Many of the towns in the path of totality have been aggressively marketing themselves to potential onlookers. One town, Hopkinsville, KY, has branded itself as “Eclipseville” leading up to the occasion. It’s likely to payoff, since it’s been reported that visitors from 19 countries and 46 states are descending upon the small town for the perfect glimpse of the phenomenon.
As another example, the sleepy agricultural town of Madras, OR, has an entire festival devoted to the solar eclipse. Appropriately named Oregon Solarfest and running from August 17-22, the festival takes advantage of the town’s perfect location in the high desert of Central Oregon and typical clear skies. Although it’s hard to really determine how many people are coming for the solar eclipse – Madras anticipates over 100,000 visitors, and millions of dollars pouring into the town’s economy.
Accommodation and short-term rentals are skyrocketing thanks to the eclipse craze. Hotels along the route have been 95% booked since 2013, so remaining rooms are going at a premium. Here are a couple examples:
Airbnb reports that over 40,000 guests have been booked along the path of totality so far, with Nashville and towns in South Carolina making up nearly half of that activity.
Total Eclipse of the Grid
The other big impact the eclipse will have is on the U.S. power grid – particularly in states that have a higher reliance on solar energy.
Out of 1,900 power plants, only 17 of them are in the path of totality (mostly in eastern Oregon), but hundreds of others will be at least 90% obscured (mostly around North Carolina and Georgia).
More than 100 million solar panels are expected to be affected, dropping output by 20% — equivalent to all the energy the city of San Francisco uses in a week.
At first glance, the eclipse might seem like a major headache for utilities, power generators, and grid operators. However, David Shepheard, a managing director at Accenture, sees it instead as a rare opportunity for a “forecastable dress rehearsal” for dealing with major grid interruptions. Some companies are even using the brief interruption to measure exactly how much rooftop solar power is actually connected to their grids.
Party like it’s 2024
If you aren’t able to watch the upcoming eclipse, don’t worry. The next total solar eclipse in the United States will take place in 2024. (You may want to book your room now though!)