Duck Curve Solutions - How to deal with it? – Suaoki

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Duck Curve Solutions - How to deal with it?


Posted on January 18 2019

The duck curve, as explained in our previous blog is the induced fluctuation in the energy demand curve by the addition of renewable energy into the system, and especially by the solar power system. This is a major problem that the state of California is facing, as it saw a great number of sales for solar panels in the last decade, and it is termed as one of the biggest problems the solar market is going to face in the near future. Engineers and scientists are already working and proposing solutions to mitigate this problem. Some of the most interesting and ideal solutions are listed below.

the Duck Curve. via insideenergy


Grid energy storage with technically advanced electrical batteries

One of the primary and long term duck curve solutions is to store the electrical energy in batteries, because of course the sun is not out at night, and the wind doesn't always blow. So we have to store electrical energy for later use. Current electrical batteries are not yet to the standard where power grids can store energy in them for later use. In the future, electrical batteries have a potentially big market, and therefore, many companies are already working on improving the battery system. Eventually, the entire power system can be run by renewable energy sources, and dependency on fossil fuels can be eliminated. In the daytime, batteries would be charged with solar panels and then during the night time they would provide the needed electricity for people; wind, thermal and hydro power plants would further help in the same direction. However, this is a long shot from being a reality anytime soon.

SUAOKI DUCK CURVE SOLUTION off grid power storage batteries
Tesla's commercial battery system for offices. via techgadgetcentral

Solar panels with solar trackers for maximum power generation

Solar panels are often installed on rooftops, especially in dense urban jungles where people have less space on their property. For a fixed solar power system in the U.S.A, it is ideal that solar panels are facing towards to south. Click here to determine your regions solar angle. However, in such a fixed solar panel system only a limited amount of energy from the sun is harvested. Before and after the solar noon, solar panels that are not facing the sun directly do not generate electricity at its most efficient rating, thus limiting its production capacity.

Solar panel with solar tracker. via npspower

Mounting solar panels with solar trackers so that the PV cells are always facing the sun throughout the day time enables them to generate the maximum rated power. This will expand the duck’s belly. Meaning the duck’s curve will get smoother at the bottom, but it will still have steep energy demand curves at dawn and dusk. Although this still leaves the problem of steep and drastic changes in the demand curve, however, a smooth belly-ed duck curve is one less problem to deal with.


Ice Energy for the most energy consuming appliance - the air conditioning units

Air Conditioner units, especially in summers, are the primary source of power demands, and when a system is undergoing a shift from solar energy to the national grid power, an immediate hike in demand curve is observed which is a major problem for grid managers. However, this problem has a smart solution - the Ice Energy.

An Ice Energy unit with the conventional AC unit. via govtech

In an Ice Energy system, an Ice unit is installed with the existing AC unit, and it works as the thermal storage. During the day time, renewable energy plants power up the AC units and also makes ice in the Ice unit as the thermal storage backup. Then during peak energy demand hours, customers can turn off the heavy, inefficient, old and noisy compressors (AC units), and instead, shift the air-conditioning system to the Ice unit. It treats the incoming hot air with the stored ice. This method is most beneficial for big malls and larger commercial buildings.

With larger ice units, your entire Air-conditioning system can rely on renewable resources. In the day time, solar energy can run the large AC units and make ice at the same time, and at night time the ice-unit works to run your air-conditioning system. Although this solution might sound a little complicated, it is an excellent solution to work towards reducing the sudden energy demand hikes.


Complementing solar power energy with thermal energy from the sun

Solar thermal energy works by running steam turbines. Heat from the sun is concentrated by mirrors towards a target location consisting of water-flowing pipes. The heat boils water, and the steam then runs the turbines.

SUAOKI DUCK CURVE SOLUTION thermal renewable energy
Harvesting the sun's thermal energy to produce electricity. via euronews


We can use the thermal energy from the sun to help with solving the duck curve. Heat from the sun can be used to melt salts, and excellent ability to retain heat, molten can keep store heat for an extended time period. The molten salts can be used to generated steam by boiling water and run turbines when the energy demand experiences sharp fluctuations, e.g. at dawn or dusk — this way the solar panels can be complemented with solar thermal energy. Notice how this is just another way of storing solar energy and using it later, just as is the case with electrical batteries.

Diversifying solar energy farms

Concentrating large quantities of renewable energy production plants in one place is like placing all your eggs in one basket. In such cases, changing weather conditions can dramatically impact energy production and induce huge fluctuations in the central grid. For this reason, solar power plants should be installed over a wide span of area. So that even if one region is experiencing bad weather, the solar plants in other regions are still up and running.

SUAOKI DUCK CURVE SOLUTION diversifying renewable energy
A diversified renewable energy resource grid is efficient and is not affected much by weather. via esi-africa


In an ideal case, renewable energy sources should be installed in different regions with different power generation methods. This ensures power supply throughout the day. Diversifying the grid will not only tackle the steepness in the duck curve but in the long run, it will eliminate the duck curve.   

Opting for efficient electrical appliances, and decreasing power needs at peak demand hours to smoothen the duck curve

To counter the effects of substantial energy demands at dawn and dusk, it is essential to educate the masses about the benefits of energy efficient electrical appliances. Lighting takes a significant portion of the energy demand during dusk hours, the same time when energy demand curves are the steepest. Efficient LED lighting system and other energy efficient appliances as a whole can help reduce the duck curve to a great extent. Furthermore, customers can also be taught, how to reduce their energy consumption, especially at dawn and dusk. Lower demands at the said timings, combined with efficient electrical appliances could have a notable positive change towards the duck curve.

SUAOKI DUCK CURVE SOLUTION efficient appliances
Opt for efficient electrical appliance to save energy. via foodmanufacture


Still confused with Duck Curve? Got some more questions? No worries, leave a comment down below with your query, and we will help you with it. Stay tuned for more exciting blogs! SUAOKI - MORE POWER, LESS FOOTPRINT!

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