Duck Curve & Its Significance for WA Households

Duck Curve & Its Significance for WA Households: Western Australia is quickly adopting solar power as a means of harnessing the abundant sunshine and embracing renewable energy. The South West Interconnected System (SWIS) has seen the installation of over 400000 residential rooftop PV systems to date. By utilizing the power of the sun, we are taking a positive step towards building a more sustainable future for both ourselves and the environment.

Despite the benefits of widespread solar adoption, it has also presented some challenges for our grid system. The reduced demand for grid electricity during daylight hours due to the use of rooftop solar by homes and businesses has placed additional strain on the grid. The resulting fluctuation in supply and demand can create instability, as illustrated by the Duck Curve. Failure to address this issue could potentially lead to blackouts in Western Australia.

What is the Duck Curve?

The Duck Curve is a term used to describe the graph that represents the fluctuation in electricity demand from the grid on days when solar energy production is high and grid demand is low. The graph typically shows a curve that resembles the shape of a duck, with distinct lines and curves.

The primary purpose of the Duck Curve graph is to highlight the potential for power system instability when the grid is faced with extreme changes in demand across different times of the day. As solar energy is exported to the grid during peak sun hours, the curves on the graph become more pronounced. 

However, as the sun sets and solar energy is no longer being generated, the graph shows a steep drop in supply, which can lead to sudden and significant demand on the grid. This can result in the energy system becoming unstable, which highlights the need for a more stable and sustainable energy solution.

The term “Duck Curve” was first used in around 2012 by the California Independent System Operator in the United States. The graph was created to illustrate the demand for electricity from a grid, with hourly solar generation and usage patterns. Since then, the Duck Curve has become a widely recognized phenomenon in the energy industry and is referenced globally as a way to understand the impact of solar power on energy grids.

Duck Curve

The graph presented above illustrates a typical Duck Curve and can be interpreted in the following manner:

The lines on the graph represent the typical amount of power dispatched by the grid over the course of a day. The large dip in the lines during the middle of the day represents when solar energy is being generated. During this time, larger generators may not be needed to meet demand.

However, as the sun sets and solar generation decreases, the lines take a steep upward curve to form the duck-like shape. This is due to the sudden increase in demand, which the grid must respond to quickly. The Duck Curve highlights the challenges faced by the energy industry in managing the fluctuating supply and demand resulting from solar power generation.

The sudden peak in demand illustrated by the steep upward curve of the Duck Curve graph can be a potential cause for system instability. In response, Future Solar WA is committed to testing initiatives that can help manage this challenge. 

As Western Australia shifts towards a renewable energy-focused future, the Duck Curve provides a valuable tool for understanding and managing the fluctuations in energy supply and demand. By exploring innovative solutions, Future Solar WA aims to ensure a stable and sustainable energy future for Western Australia.

What the Significance of Duck Curve in Perth WA

There are undoubtedly many benefits to utilizing solar power, which explains why so many Western Australian households and businesses are adopting it. Solar energy is a reliable source of power during daylight hours when the sun is shining. However, we must also consider how this adoption impacts the load and the grid.

Load refers to the demand for electricity from the grid. When solar energy output is high, demand for electricity from the grid tends to be low. This is commonly referred to as ‘low load’ and is represented by the lower line on the Duck Curve. Generally, during low load periods, people are out of their homes at work or school, so the demand for electricity is relatively low. During these periods, larger generators, such as gas or coal-fired power plants, may not be required to meet the demand for electricity and can be turned down.

As the sun sets and people return home to carry out activities such as cooking, laundry, or watching TV, almost everyone requires electricity from the grid, resulting in a spike in demand, referred to as ‘high load.’ During this period, larger generators cannot be turned up quickly enough to meet the sudden increase in demand, which could result in an unstable energy system. This is when there is a risk of a blackout occurring.

It is crucial to recognize that solar energy generation is intermittent, and although it plays a vital role in WA’s renewable energy future, it has its limitations. Cloud cover, for example, can cause solar energy output to drop rapidly, leading to potential instability in the system.

Although many households in Western Australia have installed solar panels, there is still a need for grid electricity. To help address the challenges posed by the Duck Curve, individual actions can be taken to make a difference. For instance, if you have solar panels, you can adjust your energy usage by running appliances, such as your washing machine, during the middle of the day when solar energy is abundant, in order to consume more solar energy.

Future Solar WA is working closely with the State Government and industry partners to explore innovative ways to stabilize the grid in Western Australia. We are currently conducting several exciting pilots and trials, including the testing of Virtual Power Plants (VPPs) and the Midday Saver Pilot, which is trialing a time-of-use tariff. By implementing these intelligent energy solutions, we aim to address the challenges posed by the increased use of solar power and ensure a more reliable and sustainable energy future for all.

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