Tag: "duck graph"

06/25/17

  07:19:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 403 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Solar Economics, Utilities, Ranting

Solar Boom Devolves to Power "Glut"

The LA Times today is out with an article titled, “Energy goes to waste as state power glut grows“.  The article describes how as solar power has grown dramatically in the Golden State, it has lead to a problem that has caused the state to actually pay neighboring Arizona to take our surplus energy!  Meanwhile the IOUs are badgering the CPUC to allow them to spend billions on additional natural-gas-fired power plants!  This is crazy town, and points to the need to radically redesign the incentives provided to utilities in the state.  Here’s our take…

Utility-scale pv

Utility-scale PV in Kern County (Image: LA Times)

According to the LA Times report, as recently as 2010, solar accounted for less than 1% of the electricity produced in California.  Fast-forward to last year and solar provided 13.8% of California’s electricity, with 9.6% from utility-scale projects like the one on the right, and an estimated 4.2% from residential and commercial installations.

Surely that is a good thing, as California continues on its path to getting 50% - and ultimately 100% - of its energy from renewables. But we aren’t going to get there paying our neighbors to take our surplus energy.  And it certainly makes no sense for utilities that are already overbuilt, to be spending ratepayer money on even more fossil-fueled generation capacity.

The perverse incentive here is that the IOUs - SCE, PG&E, and SDG&E - earn their money by building stuff, whether that stuff is used or not.  So it would seem that the trick here is to get them to build The Right Stuff, which certainly isn’t another natural gas peaker plant.  Instead, the clear winner here should be storage, particularly storage at utility scale. Bring enough intelligent storage into the mix and goodbye “Duck Curve” and hello a fossil-fuel-free future.

The CPUC should be providing the same rate-making incentive to build vast amounts of storage, even if at a premium price, rather than non-renewable generation capacity.  No renewable facility should ever have its output curtailed (as has happened 31% of the time in the first few months of this year), and no renewable energy should ever be exported to a neighboring state, except when such an export serves the economic interest of California ratepayers.

California is going to get to 100% renewables, we have to, as does the world.  We can and should show the way, but we will need to change the way utilities approach the problem if we are to get there anytime soon.

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07/23/14

  07:22:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 340 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Utilities, Energy Efficiency, Ranting, Energy Storage

Teaching the Duck to Fly

There is a fair amount of talk lately (in nerd circles) about a graph being circulated by the utilities and the California Independent System Operator ( CALISO, the entity that manages the electric grid in the state).  Known as the “Duck graph,” it is being presented as a dire prediction of impending grid instability due to the increasing role of renewable energy sources. But where some see doom and gloom, others see opportunity.  Here’s our take. (H/T John Farrell at REWorld.)

Here’s the graph (credit, CALISO):

Duck graph - predicted energy demand in California

As recently as 2012, this wasn’t a duck at all as net load had two peaks, one in the morning and one late in the evening.

But look at the center of the graph: as more and more renewable sources come online, the demand during the middle of the day falls dramatically, so much so that the utilities are complaining that there will be a risk of “over generation” - producing more energy than is needed and cutting into the baseline production (from power plants like coal and nuclear that need to operate continuously to be efficient.)

Also predicted is a rather steep increase in evening demand between now and 2020.

The net result is a curve shaped much like a duck, apparently a fowl predictor of grid chaos.

Frankly, we look at that graph and see progress and opportunity.  Progress in that renewables, which not so long ago were sneered at as being a, “tiny amount of energy that will never amount to anything serious,” are now completely rewriting the load curve in the nation’s most populous state.  Talk about coming a long way, baby!

The opportunity, of course, is right there as well.  While adding large amounts of smart storage to the grid is an obvious fix for this “problem", as we noted just the other day (see Can Renewables Power the US?), we can handle this evolving energy future in a relatively simple manner—it just requires changing how we approach the problem.  Here’s the video:

We can, and will, teach this Duck to fly. 

Jim Jenal is the Founder & CEO of Run on Sun, Pasadena's premier installer and integrator of top-of-the-line solar power installations.
Run on Sun also offers solar consulting services, working with consumers, utilities, and municipalities to help them make solar power affordable and reliable.

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