The Duck Curve Explained
If you’ve heard of the Duck Curve, then you may be aware of the impact that Solar PV is having on California’s electrical grid. However, if you’re not familiar with the term, you will be soon. Solar PV is a tremendous alternative and sustainable resource for electricity and already produces gigawatts of power every day. That’s fantastic, except, the production of solar energy happens when the sun shines. Which doesn’t necessarily coincide with our power consumption profile during the day.
In fact, Solar PV already generates more power than we can consume during certain times of day, especially during the spring time. Although solar irradiance is high, temperatures would be well below summertime peaks. This mismatch in production vs consumption does an abrupt reversal as the sun sets, effectively shutting off our power supply while our demand for electricity is still high and rising. If you visualize a graphical plot of the power required from the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) you see a shape resembling a duck’s back and head, the “Duck Curve”.
The power required from power generation plants balances against solar energy on the electrical grid. But, that can vary dramatically throughout the course of the day. This forces CAISO to reduce power plant output and sometimes give power away to other states to keep things in check. Then, as the sun sets, the pendulum swings the other direction and CAISO must scramble to bring power plant outputs up to maximum quickly as the solar energy drops rapidly with the setting sun. What aggravates the situation is the timing of people using their appliances and increasing power demand from the utilities. As more solar is added to the grid, the situation worsens.
The Duck Curve will continue to be a growing problem with additional Solar PV installations.
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