For the general public a solar eclipse is a rare and beautiful occurrence.

On the 20th March this year (2015) vast parts of Europe and North Africa will experience a near total block on sunlight as the moon passes between the Sun and the Earth.  Totality, the complete eclipse of the sun, will only be experienced in a very narrow path across the surface of the earth, while the partial eclipse will be visible of a region thousands of miles wide.

On this occasion, totality can be seen from the Faroe Islands and Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean, and the partial eclipse will last around two hours.

For businesses, the spectacle can cause some unique challenges.  With the darkness lasting two hours or more, the increased energy usage will be a drain on the energy grid, while staff members will want to get a look at this unusual occurrence.  Insurers will, no doubt, see an increased claim rate as motorists are caught out by the loss of light, and inevitably there will be claims for accidents due to the distraction looking out the window at the event.

We should also bear in mind that our increased use of photovoltaic energy generation, which without direct sunlight are operating at reduced efficiency.  While 2 hours out of a sunlit day are unlikely to cause major issues, anyone relying on solar energy should be prepared to take appropriate countermeasures.

In the event that you’re not at work, or your employer is generous enough to let you take a look, the safest ways to view an eclipse are

Projection | Make a small hole in a piece of card and hold it between the sun and a screen a few feet away.  An image of the sun will be projected onto the screen

Filters | Special filters can be used to view an eclipse.  These usually have thin layers of aluminium, chromium or silver on their surface.

In London, the solar eclipse will start at about 08.40, with the maximum eclipse expected to be around 09.30.  The eclipse will finish around 10.40am.

If you miss it don’t despair, the next one is due on 12th August 2026!