Welcome to the solar energy “duck curve”

Courtesy of Jo Nova.

Each year as more solar power arrives when we don’t need it in the middle of the day, the belly of the load curve swings lower and lower. Then as the sun fades and the peak need of the day arrives after dark the demand ramps up, and so must the supply. This peak is the ducks head. The neck of the duck is when generators must ramp up steeply to take over from the failing sun. It’s often when prices spike.

See the picture.
The Californian Duck Curve keeps getting fatter as more solar power arrives at noon. (Courtesy of CAISO)

The tail of the duck is the secondary peak at breakfast. The belly of the duck is noon, when otherwise profitable cheap baseload electricity infrastructure sits around and burns cash. The middle of the day is “theoretically cheap” but the rest of the day gets more expensive.

If we add more storage, we just toss more money in the pit in an attempt to flatten a curve that we created in the quest for greener electrons.

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13 Responses to Welcome to the solar energy “duck curve”

  1. Dr Fred Lenin

    All power sources which cannot supply power 24/7 should be removed from the national grid . All lines and wires to wind power facilities should be removed and the cost paid for by the owners of the wind farms . Building of coal fired clean new power stations should be started in S.A. Vic NSW and Qld financed by the afederal government Then lease purchased by power companies not involved in the climate scam industry. No taxpayer subsidies to be given to any climate scam body ,let the market take precedence .

  2. Exit Stage Right

    Dr Fred,
    Here, here, but too much common sense for our learned politicians who are ALL locked in to the climate scam. I fear our only hope is Tones who blew it last time. Does he have the guts to go again? and rip through these schysters like a whirlwind – I doubt it.

  3. Dr Fred Lenin

    Sorry exit but I cannot see one of the career polliemuppets having the guts to stand up to the u.n.communust wreckers of western society . Just watched the news Trump has pissed off all of the comrades in the g7 fiasco , except for Italy ,just shows Australia is not the only one to be corrupted by the communist filth , it seems however Italy may join Poland. Hungary and the Czech Republic as a thorn in the EU communists side s . Ontario in Canada has elected “an extreme right wing “party which has swept the stupid teenagers “liberal”communists off the table not enough reps to be a proper party and gain the priveleges that brings . The EU muppet macron wants to form an alliance to combat Trump, like to see that , know who my money would be on . The French people will wake up and Marine Le Pen will wipe the floor with him and his communistbEU crims and islamofascist allies . There is light at the end of the tunnel .

  4. If the NBN worked (sigh), we could install a $5 switch on all solar/wind installs that threw their power on the floor, unless is was required by the grid.
    Intermittent power generators should only be input to the grid when it is needed.
    Power generators should serve the grid not vice versa.

  5. Jannie

    I tried to explain something like this this to a young friend who was gushing about how wonderful it is that so much Solar and Wind Power was being feeding into the grid.

    The belly of the duck is noon, when otherwise profitable cheap baseload electricity infrastructure sits around and burns cash. The middle of the day is “theoretically cheap” but the rest of the day gets more expensive.

    Why does the baseload sit around and burn cash? I understand it is because it cannot just be switched off, and then switched back on when its dark and cold. There are long lead times to close down and fire up a Coal Plant, I presume the same applies to a gas powered plant. if less so. What are the lead times, and why can’t we plan for cold and dark periods? I don’t have the info, except to say besides night and day, weather patterns are not easily predicted.

    The Greenie responds that its just a matter of getting more battery storage and better technology for starting and closing down base load power. That sounds reasonable, even if it means that power will mostly come from expensive sources. They are happy to pay a bit more “to save the planet”, forgetting that they usually don’t pay taxes and their parents pay the power bill.

    So we pay for the baseload when we don’t use it and we pay for the renewable infrastructure when we cant use it.

  6. OlsOzzie

    Outages see power prices hit the roof

    Generators at five of the six NSW coal-fired power stations were hit by outages heading into the long weekend, stripping about a third of the state’s capacity and spiking spot prices to a forecast high of $14,000 in the early evening.

    Generation units at Vales Point, Tallawarra, Liddell, Bayswater and Mount Piper went offline this week due to planned and unplanned maintenance issues, with only Eraring, the state’s biggest and most modern, operating at full capacity.

    The outages threatened a third day of shutdowns at the Tomago aluminium smelter, the state’s largest single energy user, to avoid multi-million-dollar losses on the high energy prices.

    Tomago chief executive Matt Howell said Australia was at a crisis point with its energy system because it was losing baseload generation needed for heavy industry.

    “This is a direct result of renewable energy hollowing out the baseload generation in this country,” Mr Howell said.

    Since the closure of the Northern and Hazelwood coal plants only new wind and solar capacity had been built, but it was not suitable for heavy industry.

    Tomago had to shut down one of its three aluminium potlines for 45 minutes on Tuesday evening and two others for an hour each on Thursday to avoid exposures to peak energy prices. The shutdowns reduced demand by 300MW.

    Mr Howell said that at $14,000 per MWh — the maximum allowed in the National Electricity Market — it would cost $200,000 to make a tonne of aluminium and the plant would lose $5 million an hour.

    “If we want to be a nation that makes things, rather than one that imports all of its needs, we must have internationally affordable and reliable energy — a system that can reliably deliver, independently of the weather,” Mr Howell said.

    The Australian Energy Market Operator said NSW lost 3800MW of generation capacity this week, nearly a third of its 12,000MW installed coal generation capacity.

    It coincided with overcast and low-wind weather that limited renewables generation and forced NSW to draw more heavily on power from Queensland and Victoria.

    Spot prices calculated on five-minute intervals jumped to almost $300 in NSW, more than double the prices in other states, heading into the evening demand peak period.

    It came in a week in which two of the three biggest retailers and generators, AGL Energy and ­Origin Energy, announced modest falls in retail electricity prices.

    AEMO said the conditions did not lead to any “involuntary load shedding” — industry speak for blackouts.

    “While a number of generating units in NSW were out of service due to planned maintenance, this had no impact on reserve conditions,” AEMO said in a statement.

    “A further two unplanned forced outages, however, did ­result in 1320MW dropping out of the market and resulted in tighter reserve levels.”

    One of the four 420MW generators at AGL’s Liddell plant will be out for up to six weeks, while a second unit has been “derated” to around two-thirds of its capacity so that it can operate safely.

    Two of the 660MW units at the adjacent Bayswater plant have suffered boiler tube leaks that took them out of action at the same time as a third unit was out for scheduled maintenance

    The founder of Global-Roam consultancy Paul McArdle said only 6000MW of NSW coal ­capacity was available yesterday, which was an improvement on Thursday, but about 2000MW less than at the same time last week.

    From the Comments

    – Team Turnbull, you’re on notice. Rudd now on pink bats. In good time it will be your time to be dragged before the courts and held accountable for deliberately subjecting citizens to your ruinous energy policies in full knowledge of their utter futility in the quest to reduce global warming and overwhelmed, in any event, by increased emissions from China and India. Rest uneasy, the whole miserable lot of you.

    – More of these factual reports, please, devoid of Team Turnbull’s lies and spin about cheaper power.

    – Unwarp the “market” and things might improve. Until then we’re on a slippery slope to Veneztralia.

    – We are being done like a dinner folks. I would love to see where Turnbull has the bulk of his two hundred million invested!

    – Where are those renewable lu vies Turnbull and Josh

  7. OlsOzzie

    Andrew White – Outages see power prices hit the roof

    Generators at five of the six NSW coal-fired power stations were hit by outages heading into the long weekend, stripping about a third of the state’s capacity and spiking spot prices to a forecast high of $14,000 in the early evening.

    Generation units at Vales Point, Tallawarra, Liddell, Bayswater and Mount Piper went offline this week due to planned and unplanned maintenance issues, with only Eraring, the state’s biggest and most modern, operating at full capacity.

    The outages threatened a third day of shutdowns at the Tomago aluminium smelter, the state’s largest single energy user, to avoid multi-million-dollar losses on the high energy prices.

    Tomago chief executive Matt Howell said Australia was at a crisis point with its energy system because it was losing baseload generation needed for heavy industry.

    “This is a direct result of renewable energy hollowing out the baseload generation in this country,” Mr Howell said.

    Since the closure of the Northern and Hazelwood coal plants only new wind and solar capacity had been built, but it was not suitable for heavy industry.

    Tomago had to shut down one of its three aluminium potlines for 45 minutes on Tuesday evening and two others for an hour each on Thursday to avoid exposures to peak energy prices. The shutdowns reduced demand by 300MW.

    Mr Howell said that at $14,000 per MWh — the maximum allowed in the National Electricity Market — it would cost $200,000 to make a tonne of aluminium and the plant would lose $5 million an hour.

    “If we want to be a nation that makes things, rather than one that imports all of its needs, we must have internationally affordable and reliable energy — a system that can reliably deliver, independently of the weather,” Mr Howell said.

    The Australian Energy Market Operator said NSW lost 3800MW of generation capacity this week, nearly a third of its 12,000MW installed coal generation capacity.

    It coincided with overcast and low-wind weather that limited renewables generation and forced NSW to draw more heavily on power from Queensland and Victoria.

    Spot prices calculated on five-minute intervals jumped to almost $300 in NSW, more than double the prices in other states, heading into the evening demand peak period.

    It came in a week in which two of the three biggest retailers and generators, AGL Energy and ­Origin Energy, announced modest falls in retail electricity prices.

    AEMO said the conditions did not lead to any “involuntary load shedding” — industry speak for blackouts.

    “While a number of generating units in NSW were out of service due to planned maintenance, this had no impact on reserve conditions,” AEMO said in a statement.

    “A further two unplanned forced outages, however, did ­result in 1320MW dropping out of the market and resulted in tighter reserve levels.”

    One of the four 420MW generators at AGL’s Liddell plant will be out for up to six weeks, while a second unit has been “derated” to around two-thirds of its capacity so that it can operate safely.

    Two of the 660MW units at the adjacent Bayswater plant have suffered boiler tube leaks that took them out of action at the same time as a third unit was out for scheduled maintenance

    The founder of Global-Roam consultancy Paul McArdle said only 6000MW of NSW coal ­capacity was available yesterday, which was an improvement on Thursday, but about 2000MW less than at the same time last week.

    From the Comments

    – Team Turnbull, you’re on notice. Rudd now on pink bats. In good time it will be your time to be dragged before the courts and held accountable for deliberately subjecting citizens to your ruinous energy policies in full knowledge of their utter futility in the quest to reduce global warming and overwhelmed, in any event, by increased emissions from China and India. Rest uneasy, the whole miserable lot of you.

    – More of these factual reports, please, devoid of Team Turnbull’s lies and spin about cheaper power.

    – Unwarp the “market” and things might improve. Until then we’re on a slippery slope to Veneztralia.

    – We are being done like a dinner folks. I would love to see where Turnbull has the bulk of his two hundred million invested!

    – Where are those renewable lu vies Turnbull and Josh

  8. Stop the subsidies, disconnect wind and solar.

    Let the lucky punters who have solar panels and wind turbines already keep them. They’ve got a free head start to a glorious green future.

  9. Genghis

    I will keep reporting. The last 13 days of April NEM Wind Farms produced at less than 10% of capacity for 25% of the time and Progressives (what an oxymoron that is) want more. Stupid beyond belief really!

  10. Lutz

    Just as an aside from the US: 101 public utilities have cut rates following tax cuts

  11. Too much electricity bumps up the grid frequency and voltage, potentially damaging equipment and risking blackouts.

    This is pretty stupid, Rafe. Solar generation is too successful! If this is your argument, you’ve already lost.

    If we add more storage, we just toss more money in the pit in an attempt to flatten a curve that we created in the quest for greener electrons.

    If we add more storage, we don’t need coal any more as solar beats it on price hands down these days, and the gap in price is only improving for solar.

    If/when there is enough storage to cover baseload needs 24/7, coal is dead as a dodo.

  12. The munt shows us that he knows nothing about an A.C. grid.

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