From STOP THESE THINGS
Solar has plenty of friends when the Sun’s up, but it’s an orphan after Sunset. And it’s that point when solar-obsessed Californians smack into reality, with a very costly bang.
Conventional generators – that were designed to run around-the-clock – get bumped off the grid as the output from solar panels peaks for a few hours during the day. Then, as the Sun dips over the horizon, the output from those conventional plants is ramped up at a staggering rate, and well beyond their original design parameters.
The relationship is depicted above, and it’s been given a name: the Duck Curve. Which is really just another name for chaos.
In one of our earlier posts, Donn Dears explained what’s happened since the Californian grid has been overloaded with solar, in these terms:
The Incredible, Amazing Duck
Power for USA
29 October 2019
The Duck Curve was born in California, when the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) needed to explain how the addition of renewables affected the grid.
A quick explanation of the anatomy of the Duck Curve:
- The topmost line is the hour by hour electric load before the addition of renewables, where all of the load is supplied by baseload power plants.
- The orange body depicts the addition of renewables on the grid year by year, through 2020, where the orange area is supplied by renewables.
- The heavy line at the bottom of the curve, and the lighter lines inside the orange body for intervening years, depict the load supplied by baseline power generation after the addition of renewables.
Baseload power is typically supplied by natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) power plants, or nuclear, hydro, or coal, or a combination of them depending on which area of the country is being discussed.
Here is what the Duck is telling us.
- As more and more renewables are added to the grid the amount of electricity supplied during the daylight hours is increasingly from renewables, primarily from solar in this depiction.
- Baseload power must be quickly reduced as the sun rises to allow renewables to supply the grid.
- When the sun sets, these same baseload power plants must suddenly ramp up to meet the demand in the evening. The sudden ramping up of the power plants damages the power plants, except hydro, and various components of the grid from thermal expansions and contractions.
- Renewables are intermittent, the sun may go behind a cloud or the wind may stop blowing, so the baseload power plants must be cycled up and down to meet the variations in load. Power plants are less efficient when they are cycled in this manner which can cause an increase in air pollution, such as NOx.
It’s obvious the sun won’t shine when it rains or snows, but it’s also true wind can’t generate electricity when the wind is less than 6 mph, such as on hot summer windless afternoons. And wind turbines must be shut down when the wind blows over 55 mph, or when the temperatures go below minus 20 degree F in the winter.
- From after the sun sets until it rises in the morning, the preponderance of the electricity must come from baseload power plants, so they cannot be dismantled and eliminated. Renewables can’t eliminate baseload power plants unless electricity can be stored, which raises a large number of additional issues.
- The next picture of the Duck Curve implies what happens when renewables supply an increasing amount of electricity. All of the above problems are exacerbated, and it eventually becomes clear that utilities that own baseload power plants may find it difficult to survive without government intervention.
The Duck tells us a great deal about renewables, and is an excellent reference whenever renewables are discussed.
Power for USA
Donn’s article was published almost 4 years ago. And it seems that the duck problem has only grown worse, as Robert Bradley reports below.
“California’s Duck Curve Hits Record Lows”
Robert Bradley Jr
23 May 2023
“The forced energy transformation crowd continues to be in denial about how badly the California grid has been compromised by wind and solar, how expensive the battery solution is, and the prospect of Big Brother in the home (setting temperatures and restricting power use at will). As Ludwig von Mises observed, the failure of government intervention leads to more and more intervention, posing a choice between free markets and Leviathan.”
Social media is where the industry experts and talented professionals are effectively challenging the “magical thinking” behind climate alarmism/forced energy transformation, given the blackout of the mainstream media. As yet another example, Mike Hassaballa, energy engineer and consultant, reported on LinkedIn: “California’s Duck Curve Hits Record Lows.” His comment and graphics follow.
The famous “Duck Curve” that symbolizes the challenges of integrating renewable energy into the grid has reached an all-time low.
The Duck Curve, initially coined by the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), illustrates the daily electricity demand and supply patterns in California. Its distinctive shape resembles a duck with its head and neck representing the daily net load, i.e., the difference between electricity demand and generation.
But why is this curve so important? The Duck Curve showcases the impact of renewable energy sources, particularly solar power, on the grid. As solar panels proliferate across California, the curve’s belly – symbolizing midday surplus energy – has been steadily growing. This phenomenon poses a challenge as it can result in excess electricity during the day, followed by a rapid ramp-up in demand as the sun sets. Managing this imbalance is crucial for a stable and reliable energy system.
This highlights the pressing need for energy storage solutions, demand response programs, and further integration of renewable energy into the grid. By effectively managing the duck curve, we can accelerate our transition to a more sustainable and resilient energy future.
More than 200 comments followed, most from the pro-renewables crowd arguing, in effect, “okay, this presents a challenge that the next phase of energy transformation, such as batteries and demand-reduction, must address.”
The critics of forced grid solar had comments ranging from “That is one ugly duckling,” which elicited the response: “It’s bound to be, it’s based on ‘quack’ climate science.” Then came the more serious. Dan Fowler commented in part:
The takeaway is that no new solar projects should be permitted (or are needed) without an equal amount of storage being made available.
No amount of batteries will address this problem at a fiscally sensible level. Pursuing further penetration of solar and wind, along with batteries will push California’s electricity rates ever higher to the point of impoverishing the population and driving any sensible business away.
Scott Tinker made the obvious point of more-of-the-same-is-worse:
… the logic of integrated more of the thing that is causing the duck into the system is somewhat lost on people who understand and have to manage these things. Perhaps additional dispatchable sources like natural gas and nuclear to create reliable electricity would be useful. And also have the benefit of bringing California’s highest in the nation [lower-48] electricity prices down for the consumer. Or, you could continue to follow Europe…
The obvious solution is to stop the wounding and treat the wound. No more wind and solar. And retire existing capacity to allow market signals to bring in combined cycle power plants fueled by either natural gas or fuel oil. Coal-by-wire should also be encouraged. The electricity rate debacle can be solved and Big Brother kept out of the home.
The forced energy transformation crowd continues to be in denial about how badly the California grid has been compromised by wind and solar, how expensive the battery solution is, and the prospect of Big Brother in the home (setting temperatures and restricting power use at will). As Ludwig von Mises observed, the failure of government intervention leads to more and more intervention, posing a choice between free markets and Leviathan.