- The California power market's "duck curve" has become famous around the country as possibly a worst-case scenario for conventional generators and the state's Independent System Operator (ISO). That worst case? A beautiful, sunny, cool day.
- On such a day, power demand would be relatively low and the growing amount of distributed solar resources would be pumping out power so that other kinds of generators would have to back down. But when demand grows in the early evening, and the sun sets, the other generators would have to gear up. The ISO drew a chart illustrating that day, and sure enough, it resembles some kind of creature -- namely, a duck.
- The solar-heavy "belly" of the duck is forced to move quickly into a narrow neck where conventional generation has to ramp up very quickly, creating quite a bit of worry for the ISO and plant operators. The more distributed solar, the bigger the problem.
- But the ISO is painting it all negative, when it's not, says Mark Ferron, who left his position on the state Public Utilities Commission in January. Instead of writing complicated new rules for flexible generators, he said, the state and ISO should make the most of time-of-use pricing, energy efficiency and demand response. There could be changes to the way utilities and consumers interact, and the way solar panels are oriented.
California continues to break records for solar power use, so concern about its impact on system operations and other generators keeps growing. In Ferron's view, the worry is needless. “The problem is the policy framework that favors the status quo over sustainability and consumer choice,” he said. Utilities “have perfected the art of slow-walking when it serves their interests.”
“We need to declare hunting season on the Cal ISO’s duck chart!” he told the audience at Vote Solar’s annual Equinox fundraising event in San Francisco