Solar Power has a big challenge

Solar Power has a big challenge

Renewable energy sources are getting cheaper
by the day and in some cases are the cheapest methods for producing electricity. But there’s a major downside that needs
to get solved before renewables can really take over. That’s how to distribute power evenly over
time, so things like weather and peak demand aren’t problems. This are solutions to this underway, and in
some cases already here, so let’s dive into this. But before we do take a moment and hit the
subscribe button, so you don’t miss out on future videos like this one. I’m Matt Ferrell … welcome to Undecided. It’s hard to deny that wind and solar are
a great approach to electricity production, especially with their rapidly dropping costs. Wind and solar in many cases are half the
cost of a coal plant. In fact, 74% of existing U.S. coal plants
cost more to continue running than building replacement solar and wind farms. The prices are driving more and more utilities
to shelve plans for coal and natural gas plants in favor of wind and solar. Last year Northern Indiana Public Service
changed its plans to retire two of its five coal plants by 2023 to retiring all of them
within the next decade. However, as we add more and more renewable
sources into the grid, we’re creating a challenging electrical load problem for the
grid and utilities. The infamous duck curve. That’s right … we’re going to talk about
a duck. For a good example, we could take a look at
typical electricity demand. Here’s a graph of demand over the course
of one California day in 2016. You’ll see that the lowest demand occurs
around 4-5 in the morning, ramps up slowly over the course of the day, and peaks at around
7-8 in the evening. Well, with something like solar production,
you’re generating power in a curve over the course daylight hours. Production typically peaks around midday and
ramps down right before peak demand occurs. The right amount of power, but delivered at
the wrong time. If we subtract that solar production from
the demand curve we start to see the infamous duck make it’s appearance. I know it’s a little bit of a stretch … I’d
love to meet the person who coined the “duck curve” name and ask them to draw me a duck. Because that’s not the shape of any duck
I’ve ever seen. Anyway, the more solar production you add
to the system, the steeper and more sloped the duck’s back gets. Why is this a problem? Well, to ensure there’s electricity available
whenever you want to flip on a light switch, there needs to be just the right amount of
electricity being generated. The way this is handled today is with two
types of power plants: base load plants and peaker plants. Base load power plants provide energy at a
continuous level throughout the day, week, and year. They aren’t able to adjust the rate of electricity
generation quickly and are meant to just … run. These are typically something like coal or
nuclear plants. On a demand curve, you’d set this to run
around the lowest level of that curve. That’s where peaker plants come in. These are generally only run when there’s
high demand and are faster to ramp up than a base load plant. A lot of peaker plants tend to be natural
gas or oil burning plants. The steeper the duck curve gets, the lower
you need to run the base load plant, and the more you have to spin up peaker plants to
make up the difference in demand. I’ve oversimplified it, but in a nutshell
that’s the essential problem we have on our hands with some renewables like solar. But this is a solvable problem. Energy storage can be used to spread out solar
production more evenly and replace the need for peaker plants to match demand. Anyone that watches my channel isn’t going
to be surprised by this one, but batteries are a big part of the solution. There are some great examples of different
grid-scale battery installations proving their value. Tesla made news with the 100 MW Hornsdale
project in Australia, which has saved nearly $40 million AUD in the first year of operation. That’s over 1/3 the cost of the system itself. And Australia is a great test bed for this
since roughly 1/2 of South Australia’s energy comes from renewables.[8] After that success,
Tesla is now going to be building the largest energy storage project they’ve ever done,
a 1.2 GWh system for PG&E in California. Florida Power & Light is building a 900 MWh
battery energy storage system next to an existing solar power plant. FPL for two decades has been modernizing its
system, which has often meant replacing oil-based powerplants with natural gas units, but with
solar and batteries becoming price competitive, that’s why they’re also investing there
too. By the end of this year FPL will shut down
it’s last remaining coal plant in Florida. Flow batteries are an interesting technology. It’s a rechargeable cell that has two electrolyte
liquids circulated from giant vats and brought together. The positive and negatively charged liquids
are separated by a membrane, which is where the electricity is generated from the exchange
of ions. In Hubei, China they’re building the world’s
largest vanadium flow battery project. This pilot project is for a 12 MWh storage
system and could lead to a system up to 500 MWh down the road. There are also flow battery systems around
the world being used in conjunction with wind farms, like the Huxley Hill wind farm in Australia
and Tomari Wind Hills in Japan. And then there are hybrid battery systems. In Niedersachsen, Germany they built a hybrid
sodium-sulfur and lithium ion battery system. It uses 20 MWh of sodium-sulfur batteries
with 2.5 MWh of lithium ion batteries, that perform different grid-balancing roles. Pumped-storage hydroelectricity is one of
the most cost effective methods to store electricity today. The way it works is to take excess, or lower
cost, electricity and pump water from a lower resevoir to an elevated reservoir. When electricity is needed the elevated reservoir
water is released through turbines to produce electric power as it flows back down to the
lower resevoir. It’s a very simple, but effective system. In the U.K. there’s Dinorwig Power Station,
which is made up of tunnels below Elidir mountain. During times of low demand they pump water
up the mountain to a resevoir at high altitude. When power is needed they let the water flow
back down through the turbines, which is capable of about 11 GWh of electricity. Here in Virginia we have the Bath County Pumped
Storage Station, which has a maximum capacity of 24,000 MWh making it the largest pumped-storage
station in the world. The two reservoirs are separated by about
1,260 feet (380m) in elevation. It’s operated much like the Dinorwig Power
Station, using power during low demand cycles to pump the water to the upper reservoir. Then release the water during peak demand. This one I find extremely cool. It’s not that different from the core principle
of pumped-storage, but is simpler and doesn’t require access to vast amounts of water and
space. It’s a technique that’s been around for
hundreds of years and that I’m pretty sure almost everyone has seen at some point in
their life. If you’ve seen a pendulum clock, then you’ve
seen this in action. There’s a company called Gravitricity that
is scaling this concept up … a lot. Instead of needing a large amount of space
to hold batteries or reservoirs, they want to drill or reuse old mine shafts to raise
and lower a giant weight. The clever aspect of reusing old mine shafts
greatly reduces the cost of development. With a 50 year designed lifespan, no degradation
in performance, the ability to go from zero to full power in less than a second, and produce
between 1 and 20MW peak power, it’s a very interesting solution. This solution is still making its way to market,
but it’s a really exciting prospect for the future of energy storage. Those aren’t a comprehensive list of all
of the technologies on the market or on the way. There are things like salt water batteries,
molten salt or sodium-sulfur batteries, or even fly wheels. There are a lot of interesting things in the
works, but the point is that grid scale energy storage is possible. In many cases it’s already here and being
used every day. Most of the naysayers of renewable energy
point to irregular energy production as why it will never work. We can’t be blinded by status quo thinking
and assume that the negatives of renewable energy today can’t be overcome tomorrow. Necessity is the mother of invention, and
in this case that’s never been more true. Call me an optimist, but I find all of this
very exciting for the future of renewables like solar and wind. We all need a more nimble and resilient energy
grid. One that can provide all the energy we need,
do so in an environmentally responsible way, and maybe save us all some money on top of
it. What do you think? Do you live in an area that’s already taking
advantage of systems like these? Or is a company in your area planning on moving
in this direction? Are you worried about the swayed back duck? I’d love to hear what you think. And if you liked this video, be sure to give
it a thumbs up and share with your friends because it really helps the channel. If you’d like to support the channel, there
are some ways you can do so. If you live in the U.S. and are interested
in going solar, you can research solar panels, solar batteries, and get quotes from installers
by using my Energysage portal. It’s a completely free service that I’ve
used myself and can vouch for how well it helped me through the process. Want some cool t-shirts, like the one I’m
wearing? Check out my SFSF Shop for some cool Tesla,
Space X, science, and Undecided shirts. Every purchase helps to support the channel. And a big thank you to all of my Patreon supporters. I’d like to welcome the newest Producer
level Patreon supporter, Connected Bits. Thank you so much. It really helps to make these videos possible. If you’re interested in early access to
videos, behind the scenes posts and polls, check out my Patreon page for additional details
and I hope to see some of you over there. And if you haven’t already, consider subscribing
and hitting the notification bell to get alerts when I post a new video. And as always, thanks so much for watching,
and I’ll see you in the next one.

Posts created 34269

43 thoughts on “Solar Power has a big challenge

  1. RMI Sells energy savings to some pretty conservative companies/industries because RMI might be crypto ecologists, but to the corps, money is money!

  2. Add the dragon curve (fast chargers) and the shark curve (coordinated EV charging near peak load) and you get more grid management problems. Flywheels, supercapacitors, and lithium batteries are great for short duration high power grid frequency control. Pumped hydro and CAES (Compressed Air) have hours of storage, but getting days or seasonal storage is much tougher. Cheaper and bigger than grid batteries is demand response. There new aggregators that are bidding into capacity markets to guaranteed load shifting. They can send you a text when peak load is about to happen. You can defer EV charging or hot water heating or maybe pre-cool your house so you coast through the peak load. They make a fun game-like app for your mobile device and you get points and cash them in for $. You'll need a smart meter to demonstrate you did reduce your load compared to your average or typical load. V2G and solar batteries could help get more points . We have 3 grids in the US that can be combined. Big and strong grids add stability and can move remote generation/storage to loads in the cities. In New England we could have HVDC transmission to quebec hydro. They have 36 GW of hydro that could be operated much like pumped hydro and some sites might be able to store for months. A great combo with off-shore wind. State Grid in China has 1 billion customers and leads the world with HVDC. They are imagining a single worldwide grid. A bit of a futuristic pipe dream, but they now generate 60% more power than we do in the US and are expert in HVDC (yes they still have lots of coal too, but they are working on that). Converting excess generation to chemical energy (hydrogen, ammonia, methane/methanol) has some potential too. If we want to decarbonize you'll need clean power first. It will take some time to electrify transportation, buildings and industry. So many people expect us to get to 100% renewables. We have a long way to go, but fascinating to watch so much innovation.

  3. Hydrogen fuel cells are another option for utility scale energy storage, but still good video about the energy issues.

  4. A well-balanced view – thanks. We should be building pilot plants to check the viability of various energy storage technologies. Here in Ohio, we have large, dry salt caverns that could be used for isothermal compressed air energy storage. And we have (or had) companies like GE and Rolls Royce that could develop low-pressure turbines. Lots of opportunities if we let rational thought prevail.

  5. Many people rely on solar power, but it doesn’t work well on cloudy or stormy days or at night. My solution is Pype Pwr, which is EMP proof. I make usable electricity using fresh water. Help stop global warming. See it at

  6. As you suggest, the economics of power delivery is awesomely complicated. Wind & Solar can work but they would require an excellent & large Grid system – which makes them now too expensive. Thus the Baseline supplier, combined with some storage device. That Baseline supply is a crucial part of the solution. When Cost (esp when factoring in "externalities") and safety (deaths.terawatt), the leading candidate is Nuclear-especially Next Generation. It's worth talking about more. We all are big fans of solar & batteries (my Tesla is fed by the backyard solar panels), but the energy solution will be different in different places and will need a bigger investment in Nucs.

  7. There is an interesting study published in 2012 by Budischak el al at the University of Delaware. Link:

    This group tried to figure out what would be the least-cost way of covering the electrical demand from the PJM Interconnection, a large area in the eastern US that accounts for about 1/5 of the entire US electrical use. They used a mixture of onshore wind (mostly), offshore wind, solar photovoltaic, and natural gas backup for generation, with hydrogen fuel cells and lithium-ion batteries for storage. They found that 99.9% of PJM's electrical demand could be met with renewables with relatively small amounts of storage for about what it currently costs.

  8. I wonder why Wind generators don't have Solar panels built into the Blades, "Two for the price of One" ! Maybe this has already been done…anyone know the answer?

  9. There a subsidies for going solar. Where will the subsidies come from when everyone has solar? Subsidies are people who can't afford solar supporting people who can. Where will we put all of the batteries necessary to support NYC for one cold December night? Its a political agenda. No way around it.

  10. Well, todays batteries technologies are limited. They are expensive and heavily scaled (rare elements used like lithium) for grid solutions.

  11. As a scientist, I need to add a definition to this video. The potential to store energy within a battery is highly inefficient as a general rule. For example, a car/boat lead battery is defined as flat at 50% capacity storage used – the point at which it becomes redundant. The most efficient lithium batteries are defined as flat after about 70% usage. The capacity and efficiency of battery storage also degrades significantly the more times that the battery is recharged. Aside from Tesla marketing, it would be very interesting to see the actual performance of these storage techniques. They have spent vast sums of money in their research, very hopefully in an attempt to buck simple science.

  12. Things like regional power grids, optimised for profit and not service.
    We need a national coast to coast power grid to shift and distribute peak demand intelligently.

  13. There is no problem.Most of your usage is at night, air conditioners etc.So you collect during the day and use at night until there is no more power. You can schedule your pump usage, lights for nights as as well. There is no problem only solutions.

  14. In time, solar will be a fad that will no longer be around. nuclear will be the power of the future for all aspects of life, from earth to space.

  15. Salt water iron bateries seem to be the answer, non toxic, no limit size, cheap materials to build from.

  16. I'm watching this from Russia and Russian export is 72% – oil, gas, coal, and import – all important whole electronics, medicine, tools. Scary to think how this country will turns into Venezuela in my lifetime, because Sodium-ion or future batteries + half cheaper PV in 5 years = will 99% kill coal, gas, and oil(and this is good ofc, because sea level rise will kill us all)

  17. In response to Stephen Louie: Here's an idea, lets impose a carbon and environmental tax on corporations based on emissions and environmental damage of their products or service. Use that revenue for social security and medicare. Use peoples current SS & medicare their employers "contribution" to fund individual retirement and health care accounts not to be withdrawn until 59.5 years old except in the case of health care, disability, or death. Hopefully the carbon and environmental tax will be self eliminating and take the carbon and other pollution with it. Then remove all tax subsidies to all energy sources and let the free market take over. This approach would accomplish five objectives: 1) Reduce or eliminate carbon and other emissions as much as reasonably possible 2) Provide retirement and health security to older Americans 3) Eliminate or greatly reduce the national deficit a debt 4) Provide capital investment to keep the economy growing. 5) Redistribute wealth based on consumption, not income. This would be my answer to the green new deal.

  18. What happens to the fossil fuel industry if renewables become predominant? There is the real reason renewable is being suppressed. Because the largest and most powerful industry in the history of man does not want to pass into history. Hydro power operates at 16% efficiency. We could easily improve that by to 50%. Right now today.

  19. How difficult would it be for solar/wind power in western time zones to be cascaded back to the eastern peak usage for leveling the duck? One might even use pre and post time zone generation cascading to level the duck. A little High temp super conductors and implant the conduits into the interstate roads and viola you've got the job done in a weekend.

  20. I think the "Duck" might be a reference to the "avoidance" of the solar power peak "ducking" in power output just as it is required!

  21. let's guess. it only produces aerosol contaminants, that help keep the Earth cool, when the panels, chargers inverter stuff and batteries are being manufactured. so after they are installed they contribute to increased "global warming" without any cooling effect such as burning coal, shale or benzene provides. except that Rosenfeld et. al. in Science a few months ago reported that "maybe" we have been underestimating (what a surprise again!!! not. ) the negative atmospheric forcing on the IPCC chart labeled "aerosols" that everyone has been on the edge of their seats about…. for several decades now worrying if we were…. underestimating them. problem? well, it depends on your age group. 80 and older? safe…. maybe. have a nice day!

  22. We can use car EV car batteries as storage. EV Cars can be charged during the day at work place by solar power, they can deliver power to home in Pick load early evening to compensate the Duck curve

  23. Thanks man. In Australia we r building pumped hydro in cooma. It didn't makes any sense but i know what they r doing now

  24. The problems with storage is we need megawatt days of capacity, all of the solutions described are flawed, inpractical, or simply do not work. Nuclear power is the only zero emission solution

  25. FREE? It'll cost you a half a million bucks to raise one dropout pant draggin idiot to send to the corner for 18 years

  26. This might be of interest

    Hope it helps.

  27. Tell the entire truth. You said you could build a new solar plant cheaper than maintaining a coal plant. Unfortunately solar inverters longevity is 10 years and solar panels longevity is 30 years. Batteries longevity is 10 years unless you go Iron Edison which have huge losses approx 30% per month. EROI for solar is about 10% which is about half of coal.

  28. I just added a solar system with batteries. I haven't got my first bill after this installation, but I can't wait to see it. The batteries have helped me and my family reduce our dependence on the grid at night.

  29. The best is still nuclear. If you want to stop useing coal and gass. Just lije in Germany you put in more solar/wind it takes up more space and you produce more waste. Ypu also become more reliant on coal and gass for the diwn time when ypu dont have wind or sun. You didnt solve any if these problems.

  30. You have to ansewr what you will do withsolar panels after they have been used, as well as the batteries. Also where are you going to put all the solar panels, tgey take up heaps of spaxe and have relocated many wild animals and trees

  31. Inertia is necessary for frequency stability during faults
    Battery solar etc don’t provide this
    They rely on steam base load that is coal or gas to provide this
    The renewable solution seems to have missed this important point

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