Connect with us

Energy Shift

The Solar Power Duck Curve Explained

Published

on

The Solar Power Duck Curve Explained

The Solar Power Duck Curve Explained

With the increasing demand for electricity as the world shifts away from fossil fuels, cleaner sources of energy like solar and wind are becoming more and more common.

However, as more solar power is introduced into our grids, operators are dealing with a new problem that can be visualized as the “duck curve.”

Origins of the Duck Curve

In a world heavily reliant on electricity, utility companies have gotten better at using data to anticipate demand and trying to operate as efficiently as possible.

Usually, power companies supply the least amount of power overnight while most consumers are sleeping, ramping up during the morning as people wake up and businesses get going. Then, at sunset, energy demand peaks.

Utility companies use models to predict demand and operate as efficiently as possible by supplying more power during times of higher demand. But the introduction of solar power has brought about problems in these demand curve models.

Since solar power relies on the Sun, peak solar production occurs around midday, when electricity demand is often on the lower end. As a result, energy production is higher than it needs to be, and net demand—total demand minus wind and solar production—falls. Then, when evening approaches, net demand increases, while solar power generation falls.

This discrepancy results in a net demand curve that takes the shape of a duck, and the duck curve gets more pronounced each year, as more solar capacity is added and net demand dips lower and lower at midday.

Why the Curve is Ruffling Feathers

The drop in net demand at midday basically creates two problems:

  1. Solar energy production wanes as the sun sets, just as demand for energy typically peaks. Utility companies are having to ramp up production to compensate for this gap, often overstressing a grid that is not yet set up for these peaks.
  2. Traditional sources of energy like nuclear and coal are only economic when they are running all the time. If you have to turn them off at mid-day because the power is supplied by solar, they become economically unfeasible.

Due to overproduction, solar power is already being wasted in some places where the technology is widely used, like California.

The problem is most intense during summer or spring when part of the solar panels has to be turned off to avoid overloading or even damaging the power grid.

Flattening the Duck

With more countries starting to rely on solar power, there are many potential solutions for the duck curve being explored (and implemented):

  • Energy Storage: Overproduction of solar power during the day can be utilized by improving batteries and grid storage capacity.
  • Powering Alternatives: Extra solar power can go towards powering energy generation at night, such as pumping water for hydroelectricity or overheating a material to dissipate energy later.
  • Other Clean Sources: Unlike solar energy, sources like nuclear, hydroelectric, and geothermal can operate continuously and fill in the demand gap.

While grid managers study how to serve the new supply and demand, the duck curve is one of the greatest challenges facing renewable energy.

Click for Comments

Energy Shift

Mapped: Nuclear Reactors in the U.S.

America has 92 reactors in operation, providing about 20% of the country’s electricity.

Published

on

Nuclear Reactors in the U.S.

Mapped: Nuclear Reactors in the U.S.

The United States is the world’s largest producer of nuclear power, representing more than 30% of the world’s nuclear power generation.

America has 92 reactors in operation, providing about 20% of the country’s electricity.

The above infographic uses data from the International Atomic Energy Agency to showcase every single nuclear reactor in America.

Nuclear Development

Nuclear power in the U.S. dates back to the 1950s.

George Westinghouse produced the first commercial pressurized water reactor in 1957 in Shippingport, Pennsylvania. The technology is used in approximately half of the 450 nuclear power reactors worldwide.

Today, over 30 different power companies across 30 states operate nuclear facilities in the U.S., and most nuclear power reactors are located east of the Mississippi River.

Illinois has more reactors than any state, with 11 reactors and the largest total nuclear electricity generation capacity at about 11,582 megawatts (MW). Meanwhile, the largest reactor is at the Grand Gulf Nuclear Station in Port Gibson, Mississippi, with a capacity of about 1,500 MW.

Most American reactors in operation were built between 1967 and 1990. Until 2013 there had been no new constructions started since 1977, according to the World Nuclear Association.

Usually, U.S. power reactors receive a license to operate for 60 years. The oldest operating reactor, Nine Mile Point Unit 1 in New York, began commercial operation in December 1969. The newest reactor to enter service, Watts Bar Unit 2, came online in 2016.

The Future of Nuclear Power in the U.S.

U.S. nuclear power’s capacity peaked in 2012 at about 102,000 MW, with 104 operating nuclear reactors operating.

US nuclear generation and capacity

Since nuclear plants generate nearly 20% of U.S. electricity and about half of the country’s carbon‐free electricity, the recent push from the Biden administration to reduce fossil fuels and increase clean energy will require significant new nuclear capacity.

Today, there are two new reactors under construction (Vogtle 3 and 4) in Georgia, expected to come online before 2023.

Furthermore, some of the Inflation Reduction Act provisions include incentives for the nuclear industry. Starting in 2024, for example, utilities will be able to get a credit of $15 per megawatt-hour for electricity produced by existing nuclear plants. Nuclear infrastructure projects could also be eligible for up to $250 billion worth of loans to update, repurpose, and revitalize energy infrastructure that has stopped working.

Continue Reading

Energy Shift

What is the Cost of Europe’s Energy Crisis?

As European gas prices soar, countries are introducing policies to try and curb the energy crisis.

Published

on

What is the Cost of Europe’s Energy Crisis?

Europe is scrambling to cut its reliance on Russian fossil fuels.

As European gas prices soar eight times their 10-year average, countries are introducing policies to curb the impact of rising prices on households and businesses. These include everything from the cost of living subsidies to wholesale price regulation. Overall, funding for such initiatives has reached $276 billion as of August.

With the continent thrown into uncertainty, the above chart shows allocated funding by country in response to the energy crisis.

The Energy Crisis, In Numbers

Using data from Bruegel, the below table reflects spending on national policies, regulation, and subsidies in response to the energy crisis for select European countries between September 2021 and July 2022. All figures in U.S. dollars.

CountryAllocated Funding Percentage of GDPHousehold Energy Spending,
Average Percentage
🇩🇪 Germany$60.2B1.7%9.9%
🇮🇹 Italy$49.5B2.8%10.3%
🇫🇷 France$44.7B1.8%8.5%
🇬🇧 U.K.$37.9B1.4%11.3%
🇪🇸 Spain$27.3B2.3%8.9%
🇦🇹 Austria$9.1B2.3%8.9%
🇵🇱 Poland$7.6B1.3%12.9%
🇬🇷 Greece$6.8B3.7%9.9%
🇳🇱 Netherlands$6.2B0.7%8.6%
🇨🇿 Czech Republic$5.9B2.5%16.1%
🇧🇪 Belgium$4.1B0.8%8.2%
🇷🇴 Romania$3.8B1.6%12.5%
🇱🇹 Lithuania$2.0B3.6%10.0%
🇸🇪 Sweden$1.9B0.4%9.2%
🇫🇮 Finland$1.2B0.5%6.1%
🇸🇰 Slovakia$1.0B1.0%14.0%
🇮🇪 Ireland$1.0B0.2%9.2%
🇧🇬 Bulgaria$0.8B1.2%11.2%
🇱🇺 Luxembourg$0.8B1.1%n/a
🇭🇷 Croatia$0.6B1.1%14.3%
🇱🇻 Lativia$0.5B1.4%11.6%
🇩🇰 Denmark$0.5B0.1%8.2%
🇸🇮 Slovenia$0.3B0.5%10.4%
🇲🇹 Malta$0.2B1.4%n/a
🇪🇪 Estonia$0.2B0.8%10.9%
🇨🇾 Cyprus$0.1B0.7%n/a

Source: Bruegel, IMF. Euro and pound sterling exchange rates to U.S. dollar as of August 25, 2022.

Germany is spending over $60 billion to combat rising energy prices. Key measures include a $300 one-off energy allowance for workers, in addition to $147 million in funding for low-income families. Still, energy costs are forecasted to increase by an additional $500 this year for households.

In Italy, workers and pensioners will receive a $200 cost of living bonus. Additional measures, such as tax credits for industries with high energy usage were introduced, including a $800 million fund for the automotive sector.

With energy bills predicted to increase three-fold over the winter, households in the U.K. will receive a $477 subsidy in the winter to help cover electricity costs.

Meanwhile, many Eastern European countries—whose households spend a higher percentage of their income on energy costs— are spending more on the energy crisis as a percentage of GDP. Greece is spending the highest, at 3.7% of GDP.

Utility Bailouts

Energy crisis spending is also extending to massive utility bailouts.

Uniper, a German utility firm, received $15 billion in support, with the government acquiring a 30% stake in the company. It is one of the largest bailouts in the country’s history. Since the initial bailout, Uniper has requested an additional $4 billion in funding.

Not only that, Wien Energie, Austria’s largest energy company, received a €2 billion line of credit as electricity prices have skyrocketed.

Deepening Crisis

Is this the tip of the iceberg? To offset the impact of high gas prices, European ministers are discussing even more tools throughout September in response to a threatening energy crisis.

To reign in the impact of high gas prices on the price of power, European leaders are considering a price ceiling on Russian gas imports and temporary price caps on gas used for generating electricity, among others.

Price caps on renewables and nuclear were also suggested.

Given the depth of the situation, the chief executive of Shell said that the energy crisis in Europe would extend beyond this winter, if not for several years.

Continue Reading

Subscribe

Latest News

The latest news from our sponsors:

Popular