Solar power’s greatest challenge was discovered 10 years ago. It looks like a duck.

Paul Denholm (EAP ’04), Principal Energy Analyst at the National Energy Renewable Laboratory, was recently interviewed by Vox about the origins of the “Duck Curve,” which demonstrates one of the major challenges of integrating large amounts of solar energy into the electric grid.

Denholm told the EAP program,  “I actually started generating net load curves with PV in Wisconsin, so technically you could say that the duck curve began its gestation at the UW.”


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Back in 2008, a group of researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) noticed a funny-looking shape in their modeling.

They were starting to take solar photovoltaic (PV) panels seriously, running projections of what might happen if PV were deployed at scale. They noticed that large-scale deployment had a peculiar effect on the electricity “load curve,” the shape that electricity demand takes throughout the day.

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