The 'duck curve' is solar energy's greatest challenge



Renewables require change in the energy supply chain.

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Electricity is incredibly difficult to store, so grid operators have to generate it at the exact moment it is demanded. In order to do this, they create incredibly accurate models of the total electric loads, that is how much energy will be consumed on a given day. But as utilities started to produce more energy from renewable sources like solar, the models started to shift as well.

California researchers discovered a peculiarity in their state’s electric load curves, that started to look more and more like a duck. And that duck shaped chart highlights the greatest challenge to solar energy growth in the US.

Vox writer David Roberts has been covering the issue for a few years now. You can read some of his past explainers on the duck curve, and its solutions at the links below:

And if you would like to read some of the source material used in the video above, you can check those out here:

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42 comments

  1. It's not a challenge it's a limitation. Life cycle EROI of solar and wind with storage cannot power an industrial society. Ever. Under any conditions or investment levels. It doesn't produce enough excess energy. Most publications place 2060 EROI of 100% renewable electrical grid at 3 to 5. Industrial economies require at least an EROI of 9. Fossil fuels are 15 to 100+. It's either nuclear or starvation and war. Not hyperbole. In either case we'll never be going backwards in energy density per capita. Ever.

  2. Another possible solution albeit with some initial startup cost… make and sell green hydrogen fuel out of water during the low-demand hours?

  3. This video is 3 years old, at the time of posting this comment. There’s now a definite solution to the problem – Tesla megapacks and OZOP Energy Solutions, both of which provide battery storage of solar power. The energy can be arbitraged back to the grid during times of peak demand. The huge solar farm in Australia has been an immense success.

  4. Bitcoin is the answer to this problem. If the renewable companies powered miners with the electricity they otherwise be forced to dump, then they'd be able to earn money from every drop of energy they produce and it would make the renewable energy industry far more economically viable.

  5. They need to specify lots of the new solar is not feeding into the grid. Otherwise it would have no effect on demand.

  6. Imagen I walk to your office and tell you " Hey Lets use the Solar Energy and other posible source so Energy is Free and No One have to pay you for it anymore😃"
    What would be your answer to that ?? 🙈😂

  7. Why is it solar energies biggest problem?🤨

    Solar works during daylight (obviously)

    Other times require other energy supplies

  8. People forget that electric car have built in storage. The more people that buy EV's will charge their cars during day and have surplus stored in the batteries over night. Just use the stored energy to balance out the grid during night, problem solved.

  9. Go google Valhalla proyect in Tarapaca, they solve the problem of how to shift the energy produce during the day to the night staying green

  10. The idea of mass solar power solutions, like giant collectors, is only for the distant future, where we can put solar satellites in space, bringing astounding 'free' power down power lines. For now, we should mandate amorphous solar cell panels for every new roof on every new home. No panacea, this will contribute greatly when the mass of such homes reaches a majority…

  11. Simple solution (in theory) Figure out how to use the low demand time during the day to charge massive battery banks to use at peak time to even out the power plants demand

  12. Tesla found a solution the solar energy should be stored in batteries in the day and release it in the night

  13. So create better batteries or some other form of energy storage, or divert the excess energy to other industries/applications.

  14. Sell solar power to the Europe during the day and during the night buy solar power from Australia. Duck curve solved.

  15. Yes the sun produces most energy at midday, and batteries are incredibly expensive and have a life circle of about 1000 charges.
    But you know what we could do? … well could have done years ago.
    We could build a shitload of modern nuclear reactors, handle them responsibly and have energy that has minimal impact on the environment!
    And then these wannabe green guys can have all the time in the world to discover hot water!

  16. Vox, it seems disingenuous to produce a video on solar energy that's sponsored by an investment firm, who undoubtedly is heavily invested in status quo energy titans such as coal, nuclear, and other fossil fuels. Journalistic discloser would be to at least cite some of their investments. This is paid content being sold like journalism. Love David Roberts though!

  17. use hydral batteries…. use pumps powered by excess mid day energy to store water in dams…. at evening start the hydral power generation…

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