The ‘duck curve’ is solar energy’s greatest challenge


When you flip a light switch, you expect it
to work right? All of your appliances work, because your
power company has electricity ready to transmit. For a lot of customers. And utility companies have gotten really good
at anticipating that demand. But a rise in solar energy production is making
their jobs a bit more complex. Here’s a chart that explains why. It’s showing demand for electricity at any
given time of day. The power companies supply the least amount
of power overnight. Then, it ramps up in the morning. Everyone’s woken up and business gets going. Then at sunset, energy demand peaks. Utility companies will update models like
this to operate as efficiently as possible. But the introduction of renewable energy,
particularly the solar energy, has started causing problems in these demand curves. In 2010, solar panel deployment really started
taking off. Most of those installations took place in
California, so researchers there started looking into it. They found that the sun produces the most
energy at mid-day. And when you factor in that new mid-day production,
your demand curve changes like this. Every year means new solar capacity, which
makes mid-day demand dip lower and lower. Researchers call this drop in demand the “duck
curve.” From the grid managers’ perspective, the people
whose job it is to constantly balance generation and demand, it looks like a drop in demand. That drop in demand creates two problems. The first has to do with the intense ramps
in the new chart. As the sun sets, solar energy production ends
just as the demand for energy typically peaks. Power plants then have to rapidly ramp up
production to compensate for that. Which is kind of hard to do with the current
fleet of power infrastructure. The second problem is economic. Say you have a couple of nuclear and coal
plants. Those plants are only economic when they are
running all the time, basically. They run around the clock. And if you have to turn them off at mid-day,
it completely screws up their economics and plus lots of utilities just have contracts
with those power plants to keep them running all the time. So that creates sort of an artificial floor. If solar generates too much power and there’s
no use for it, there’s no one to consume it, then grid managers just have to turn some
solar panels off. If they didn’t, we could risk overloading
or even damaging the power grid. So we throw away some of that extra solar
energy. Effectively, what’s happening is that solar
power is being wasted. That waste, curtailment, is the big challenge
moving forward for solar energy. If you want solar, eventually to power everything
or close to everything, you’ve gotta figure out some way of shifting it to the night time. Cause the sun’s down during the night time. The more power that can be stored, the more
you can sort of let solar rip. While the grid managers figure out how to
serve this new supply and demand, this duck is the greatest challenge facing renewable
energy. Thank you for watching and thanks for Principal
Financial for sponsoring Vox Video. Whether it’s securing investment, retirement,
or protecting your insurance assets, they can help you prepare for the unexpected.

70 thoughts on “The ‘duck curve’ is solar energy’s greatest challenge

  1. Uh not the biggest challenge for solar. Daily cycles can be easily stored in batteries (5 – 10 kWh per household). Biggest challenge for higher latitudes is the seasonal variation (500 – 1000 kWh per household in Western Europe), which is extremely hard/costly to solve with existing storage technology.

  2. Connect the whole world power grids together then it will make sence.if there is night at some place and the need of electricity is more then where there is day they generate electricity and the load distributes.

  3. Now it makes sense why the power companies are giving out worse and worse incentive/power buyback programs for installing solar

  4. I guess it's important to emphasise that the y axis of the graph shows demand *met by the grid*. Privately-owned solar panels push demand met by the grid down to create the duck curve. There is still plenty of demand for electricity during the day, it's just met more by people's own solar panels.

  5. "They (researchers) found that the sun produces the most energy at midday."
    What!? Seriously, I really didn't see that coming.

    I think I'm flabbergasted right now… 😄

  6. Curtailment is a good problem to have! The more the better. Long live curtailment! Now we can work on storage!

  7. Just make a space elevator with solar panels and you won't have to worry about day/night cycles, only the moon.

  8. germans answer "pump speicher kraftwerk"
    using midday overpower pumping water uphill.
    when more electricity is needed, this water used to create new electricity

  9. This is why solar energy is NOT the future. Humanity’s future lies with other forms of clean energy, namely hydroelectricity, nuclear energy, and (hopefully) fusion energy. These can provide steady and consistent sources of energy throughout the day. They already explained the “duck curve,” and wind turbines won’t work if the wind suddenly shifts. It’s hard to get a river to stop flowing, your uranium, thorium, plutonium, or whatever you’re using won’t just suddenly stop being radioactive, and fusion energy uses the same mechanism as the sun, which has been going strong for billions of years.

  10. What if we connected solar power grids all around the world so that solar was available 24/7 for everyone o.o/

  11. The title is wrong. It should be "The 'duck Curve' is the grids greatest challenge". The grid technically goes back to the first power line Tesla and Westinghouse ran from Niagara Falls to Buffalo NY because it was alternating current. Yes, Edison had a "grid" in Pearl Street in NYC before but that was DC and impractical. So the grid is essentially the growth of Westinghouse and Tesla's AC transmission system. That was in the 1880s. It is now 2019 about 130 years later and the whole Grid has to change to accommodate a new world of environmentally sound electrical transmission. So this is not a solar challenge but a grid challenge. How we respond to this is the key to minimize the global impact of our fuel usage. I think, because of economic realities that developing countries will respond first because they have little or no grid now. The large economies (USA and Europe as an example) will be forced to abandon very expensive present systems and either continue to use large transmission lines with peakers, batteries, nuclear, geothermal, flywheels, compress air and hydro storage or move towards mini grids that serve very small areas with similar back up energy systems. The economics will most likely dictate the direction and not necessarily the best grid possible. Since the world and especially the USA spends so much on war that is destructive perhaps that money could instead be used constructively for the people of the world. One can always hope.

  12. What if you were to use the energy that got produced by solar panels on the side of the earth that currently has daytime, using the overproduced fractions of that energy and using it on the side of the earth, that finds itself in nighttime, hence needs more electricity? I know that that will probably be impossible, since building a giant grid line from one side of earth to the other is a bit abstract, but maybe there‘s something similar to this idea😅🤷🏻‍♀️

  13. Maybe there's a way to sell or transfer this extra energy to other continents. Asia to America, Europe and Africa to Asia, and America to Europe and Africa.

  14. Didn’t they solve this in Spain? A kind of solar power plant that heats up salt to extreme degrees then uses that heat to generate electricity long into the night. But the hydro pump back idea works too, using excess electricity to pump water back up hydropower dams then sending it back down at night. Some dams already do that

  15. He should have mentioned that we can store excess energy from midday and use it when demands are higher via hydroelectric power plants. You pump water to the reservoir when you have excess power and release it when you have high demand.thid helps smooth the curve out

  16. would it be possable to make gigantic solur farms at the polls? cause there is 24/7 sunlight for half the year each (minus the snowstorms)

  17. We are not wasting! We just need more people investing on solar energy and not on algorithms to control society simple!

  18. I'm been tryna say surely solar can be put in a box with lights and power itself and still have excess. I call it a light box generator.

  19. This is dumb af lol you pretty much just said you need batteries at either a factory level of consumer level. I could have told you than in less than a minute

  20. Well the obvious answer is to make make the electricity from car charge points free during this period. Sunshine would then explicitly power electric cars. I mean,,,,, doh!

  21. Gas turbines have quick (relatively) start / stop characteristics … but keep looking for better storage methods

  22. If somehow most of the countries of the world can agree to regulate power together, is it possible to somewhat flatten the graph by distributing the power around the clock? I.e. supply and demand around the clock as the world spin on the axis?

  23. Grid Management needs to invest in Bigger, Better MegaWatt Battery Storage System to level out the Duck Curve…

  24. That's it? I guess they can make an informed enough decision that we should do something but no suggestions on what to do… 🤔

  25. considering the Tesla battery is doing good job in South Australia for problem like this and was not mentioned, pretty sure some big oil sponsored this vid.

  26. The problem is solved easily by using hydro electric. Use peak solar to pump water uphill & release it at evening during demand.
    Why do we need complicated chemistry in batteries 😕

  27. This video is proudly brought to you by Nuclear + Coal experts. It is their last kick of the dying industry.

  28. Use hydro store batteries then. Look at Norway, they do it, even the UK does. How does it work? Pump water up to reservoirs using surplus power, when the energy demand hits, the water is released through a system of turbines, using gravity to generate power. It's a really simple idea.

  29. Since the average nationally of solar customers also on the grid is at or below 2%, the idea that the demand rates change as drastically as described is rendered ridiculous.

  30. It's like… we're letting all of that energy we get from the sun just REFLECT BACK OUT IN TO SPACE. If only we had some way of ABSORBING MORE OF THE SUN'S ENERGY THAT ENTERS OUR ATMOSPHERE. You know, like some kind of GREENHOUSE.

  31. Invent a new eco-friendly-cheap Battery and become not just the richest man, but one that could save the world.

  32. I heard this before and solution is really simple "the grid" should be made global…. Like the internet, but connecting all the worlds solar panels…With VERY high voltage of course, the storage is so wasteful…Sun always shines somewhere.

  33. No the duck curve is the not greatest challenge its the solar waste it create once it is damaged it goes to land fills and creates pollution causing environmental problems since solar is basically made up of harmful chemicals that need to be disposed of. I love clean energy but solar is not helping the environment once it gets damaged and burned for recycling.

  34. Wind and Solar cannot solely be relied upon and these (nonsense) batteries do not fix the problem. You all praise it to heaven until there's no power in the plug.

    The problem with solar is that they mostly produce power in regions where we don't need it at the time. Solar power is especially demanding for low voltage grids due to a high raise in voltage causing all sorts of electrical device failures and a faster wear of the cables and distribution transformers.
    We should focus on real reliable and clean energy; nuclear energy.

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