Dealing With The Duck Curve, Or Just Another Quack Idea?

After our three-part series reviewing current trends in the sector concluded, it is understandable to have been wary of platform development’s longevity. It has been said before, but it bears repeating, platform development is not dead! The space is still highly fertile, as exemplified by patent 10692161, which teaches a solution to the problems distributed energy resources (DERs) pose to conventional power grids like the duck curve.

Publicly acknowledged in 2013, the duck curve was initially the name given to an energy demand versus time graph of a California power grid in the spring. Due to the prolific use of solar energy by grid users, energy demand from the grid was low during the day, reaching its trough in midday, then sharply rising at night after sunshine had faded. Grid operators had to ramp up power production in the morning before sunshine was strong, then sharply ramp down power production during the day, only to have to more drastically ramp production up again at night when personal solar panels could no longer meet their owner’s needs.

The duck curve is not exclusive to California, and the challenges it poses to power grids are not exclusive to solar energy. The variability of microgrids and DERs, like personal wind, solar, or geothermal energy generators have plagued grid operators since their inception. This variability causes grid operators to have to sharply ramp up and ramp down power production for the grid. Not only are these up and down-regulations costly and wasteful, but power plants can also only produce energy so fast. Addressing these issues has been the motivation behind many of the developments within the sector within the past several years.

Patent 10692161 teaches a method of controlling reactive power generation through sending supply curve information to DERs, determining a price to pay DERs for putting power into the grid instead of having to ramp up central plant production and utilize the DERs as a sink for excess grid power. The end result of these practices is to control grid voltage and keep up with varying and unpredictable demand. This development of a new platform runs counter to the new focus many of the major companies within the sector have shifted to, and the way companies have traditionally approached solving issues like the duck curve; the regulation of personal power use through pricing. What is even more exciting is that the patent assignee, Station A, Inc., is a startup founded in 2018 with no other documents in the sector, meaning new companies are still finding opportunists to invent and invest, within the sector, particularly within platform development.

Be sure to analyze the claims at Patent Matrix® to see the whole host of new ideas taught in the patent.

Brown White and Blue Duck