The “Duck Curve” is Solar Power’s Greatest Challenge (Video)
When people think of solar power and the challenges it faces, they probably think of costs and efficiency. A decade ago, solar panels were extremely expensive for residential, and even commercial, applications and the panels themselves weren’t very efficient in converting sunlight into energy. Today, solar panel efficiency has risen tremendously and the costs to install have gone way down. So, what the biggest hurdle for solar power today?
The answer to the question is simple economics. The sun typically produces the most energy between 11am-3pm most days. This is also the time of day where energy demand dips as people as people are at work. With more and more solar installations, that demand for electricity from the grid keeps going down and down. In some areas, there is so much solar power that, during the day, the demand for electricity drops below the amount of electricity being generated by the grid.
This “dip” where electricity demand falls below electricity generation has been labeled the “duck curve” and is the biggest obstacle that solar power faces. In a nutshell, when solar power produces too much energy during the day (non-peak hours) and not enough during high electricity demand periods, it is hard on our electrical grid. The electrical grid is aging and not set-up to start and stop as needed. To be efficient, power plants must continuously run and generate electricity. This leads to wasted energy during the day as both solar power and the energy grid are generating energy but fewer people are using it.
Here is a video explaining more about the “Duck Curve” and how it affects consumers:
The good news is there are companies, like Telsa, working on storage for solar power so that we can shift the usage of renewable energy to high demand hours. They are building enormous facilities to mass produce large electrical batteries to get them more affordable.
Some utilities have already started to invest in large battery storage for there renewable energy. However, in order for this to be an industry-wide solution, the cost of these large storage batteries will have to drop significantly.