Solar Power Has an Achilles’ Heel… But There’s Hope!

Solar power as a major source of Grid energy, isn’t, a new idea. Solar panels have been around for decades and in that time they have become inexplicably controversial. Proponents point to the endless energy source that is our Sun as a clear choice for the world’s.

Future energy needs, but detractors will invariably point to a Setting Sun, just as energy demand Peaks. As reason why solar isn’t something to be taken too seriously so which is it? What is this fatal flaw that makes people overlook solar as a serious, renewable energy contender? Before we answer that question, we wanted to share some pretty interesting data.

We found on the solar industry in the United States. According to the sei, a in 2000, the size of solar installations in the United States could be measured in the hundreds of megawatts by 2010, that number reached about 1,000 megawatts and in 2018, more than 11,000.

To put that into context, in 2017, the United States generated about 4,000 terawatt-hours of electricity, of which about 50 was from solar power. This figure only includes grid scale, solar, not residential, so that figure should be a little higher.

The solar investment tax, credit or ITC was started in 2006, provides a 30 % federal tax credit for residential solar installations and has really led to a boom in the industry. However, you may feel about government subsidies for solar.

That is a very interesting video for another day over 250,000 Americans now work in solar in 2017, double the number of jobs just five years earlier in 2012. It is one of the fastest growing industries in the United States, and growth appears to be steady in the u.

s. solar generation offsets more than 76 million metric tons of co2 emissions each year, which is equivalent to taking 16 point 2 million cars off the road or Planting nearly 2 billion trees prices are also falling fast, making solar a more viable option for more and more people.

In 2010, when I first installed solar on my house, prices were around $ 6 per watt and in 2008, that price is now below 2 dollars check out our future video on my expiry, with solar, eight years later, coming in February 20, 19.

Okay, so there’s, a lot to like and be optimistic about for solar in the future. So what is this fatal flaw? Well, it is a phenomenon called the duck curve to better illustrate this. Let’s. Take a look at the energy demand over the course of one day in California on October 22nd, 2016 early in the morning, the energy load starts to fall until around 5:00 a.

m. where it reaches a minimum. Then, as people start, waking up, the demand steadily begins to rise. The energy load Rises all the way until around 8 p.m. where it reaches a maximum and starts to fall.

This represents the energy usage for the state of California over the course of a whole day. Now, what if we also include the energy generation provided by solar, the solar energy generation ramp up, looks like this.

As the dawn breaks, the generation starts to rise, peaking around noon and then falling back down. This also varies throughout the year and the summer the days are longer and the curve looks like this, while the opposite is true in the winter.

Now, if we subtract the solar generation from the energy load, the curve looks like this and using a little imagination, we see where the duck curve gets his name. This resulting curve has some very serious implications.

Let’s, suppose in the coming decade that solar generation increases by a factor of 3. The curve would look like this. You’ll notice that, with greater and greater solar generation we can almost eliminate utility load from other sources, while the sun is shining, but the tricky bit is what we can do about the demand.

When the Sun isn’t shining. There are a couple of things we can do to help the case for solar. If we look at the solar production, ramped up curve will notice that we aren’t generating as much power as we could be.

Take a look at sunrise and sunset. The reason the solar generation builds up to a peak and drops again as a principle called flux. If we look at our solar panels from the sun’s, point of view, we see the shape of the collection area changes at dawn.

The sun’s. Rays are parallel with the panel’s, so the output is 0, but as the Sun rises, the area of the solar panels increases until the Sun is perpendicular to the panels. This represents the largest collection area and the maximum generation, rather than stationary panels.

There are solar installations that move tracking the Sun by rotating the panels. Throughout the day we can achieve something more like this moving the panel’s to follow the Sun could result in about a 40 % increase in generation.

However, these tracking systems are complex, require maintenance and with falling solar prices, it would be better just to get more panels, but the best benefits would be at the end of the day around dusk.

The energy demand rises. So if we could increase solar generation at this period of time, that would be really beneficial. Now this could be achieved simply by placing stationary solar panels facing the late-day Setting Sun sure these panels, wouldn’t create as much energy all day, but they could create more energy at a time when demands are higher, and this gets to the heart Of the matter, the greatest challenge with solar is its set time for being effective, and the simple fact that it doesn’t align exactly with when people use electricity most.

Let’s. Think about this from the point of view. As an energy grid manager, their job is equal parts, energy, buyer, supplier and forecaster. They have to predict when people will need electricity and make sure the grid can handle the load.

The increasing proliferation of solar, interestingly hasn’t, made their jobs any easier sure. The solar generation lowers the demand during the day, but that isn’t as beneficial as you might think. In the world of power plants.

We essentially have two types: baseload plants and peaker plants. Baseload plants typically operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. These plants are very large in scale and can’t really effectively or economically be turned on and off.

These are large-scale coal plants. Natural gas and nuclear power plants they all work best when they’re, just left to run non-stop. Then we have pker power plants. These are more expensive, smaller and typically more polluting plants that are only turned on when peak demands require a boost in energy production.

These result in higher prices for the utilities and, ultimately, the end consumers. So let’s, pretend we’re power grid managers. Our first job has to be making sure that when a switch is flipped or light turned on that there is electricity ready and available at any hour of the day.

So we can think about our electricity demand in terms of a maximum and a minimum. If we set up base load power plants to operate close to the minimum load level, then we could run peaker plants whenever the demands surged.

This isn’t exactly how it works, but it’s, a good place to start now. If we factor in solar generation either from residential, solar or grid scale solar, you can see how much more difficult our jobs just got.

Now, if we only ran our base load plants at our new minimum demand level, we’d, have to run our pker power plants much more often and rely on them for more electricity due to the small-scale, higher operational cost and fuel source costs of Peak air power plants, this could actually cause electricity bills to rise.

Our other option would be to continue running our base load plants at the previous minimum demand levels. But then we’d, have an increasing amount of excess energy sure we could try to sell excess energy to other utilities.

But if that wasn’t enough, we’d, eventually have to curtail solar generation or basically throw it out. So you can start to see as the amount of solar generation increases and rest assured. It will only increase from here the benefits aren’t exactly black and white.

So by now you’re starting to see the answer is simple: we need energy storage and we need it in a big way. You’re, probably thinking of batteries when thinking of energy storage and they are a huge part of the future.

But there are some interesting mechanical forms of energy storage available today and coming online in the near future. For many years, we pumped water up into large reservoirs with water pumps during periods of excess energy.

Then, when energy demand is high, that same water can roll downhill powering hydroelectric generators, a company called gravity has new vision for mechanical energy storage. Their idea is to suspend a massive clock rate weighing in excess of 3,000 tons in a mineshaft.

When that increasing solar generation isn’t needed, it could turn motors and lift the weight and when demands peak, the weight can fall and power generators on the way down. The challenge here is digging deep holes, so the company plans to retrofit old decommissioned mines.

This can breathe new life into old mines and also allow countries around the world to adopt technology, and I passed the largest startup cost. Another approach is compressed air, energy storage or CA es, and there are numerous companies around the globe proving out their concepts.

One such company is Ella case a privately held Swiss company. Their technology allows excess energy to pump air into pressure chambers deep in mountain sites. This highly compressed air can then be released powering generators when energy is needed.

This is a zero emission, low environmental footprint storage solution that can help many regions around the world. There are even companies building energy storage flywheels like beacon power, a flywheel is a heavy mass that requires energy to spin up then, by engaging a generator, the mass can be slowed down, converting its stored, kinetic energy into electrical energy.

Then, of course there is battery storage. Like systems provided by Tesla, Tesla builds large scale, expandable systems for grid scale, power storage, but for simplicity, let’s. Look at a residential tesla powerwall, which has 13.

7 kilowatt hours of storage. Now, if you add more and more solar panels, you can both power, your house directly with the panels, but also charge your power wall battery. Then, throughout the night and into the next day, your house would run on the power wall rather than putting it demand on the grid.

So if you were thinking about going solar, consider storage as well, because the prices are starting to come down and it’s a good time to buy this wasn’t the case in 2010, when I first got solar. But what’s really interesting? Is that even if you don’t want solar panels, you could still get a battery storage solution.

That would be beneficial if the power ever went down, your house would always have power. Also, many utility companies are starting to offer time-of-use plans where prices vary by the time of the day.

High peak times are around 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. while super off-peak times. Are you typically midnight to 5 a.m. if you had a power wall? You could program it to charge during off-peak times when demand and prices are low and then use that power during the day when demand and prices are high grid.

Scale. Storage would work very similarly, but at a much larger scale if we could store energy more efficiently than an increase in solar generation would truly clean up the grid. So, yes, solar is an absolutely amazing technology that is gaining wide adoption around the world.

The prices for panels have fallen dramatically as a demand for them, and subsequent manufacturing have ramped up. This is all very good, but the fatal flaw of solar requires a storage solution watch for the next decade to be the age of energy storage.

We believe it’ll, be a mix of grid scale storage as well as distributed individual residential storage installations. Prices are still pretty high for to power walls, which Tesla recommends for most homes.

The costs are around $ 15,000, but do check for tax credits where you live and think about how much you pay for energy. We live in California, and energy here is really expensive, so that will factor into any break-even calculations.

So there you have it. Solar energy has a fatal flaw, but there is hope and it’s, energy storage. So what do you think? What new forms of energy storage are going to shape the coming decade? Have you installed solar or battery storage solutions? We’d.

Love to hear about your thoughts and experiences check out our other videos. We cover all aspects of the future of clean energy and transportation, big thanks to all of our patrons on patreon, and if you’re new, please consider subscribing and joining us on patreon.

We’re tuba DaVinci. Thank you for watching