The California Duck Curve reveals a potential costly issue for utilities and their customers. The annual peak load appears to be continuing to grow -- because it occurs after dark when there is no solar power being generated -- yet energy sales may be declining with the growth of distributed solar generation during the day. This results in the need to continue to expand the grid, but without the sales revenue to support the added capital expense, presenting a Catch-22 that utilities are struggling to overcome.
Here’s a little something you can chew on if you are sitting down to eat one of the 46 million turkeys Americans will roast this Thanksgiving. The latent thermal storage in all those turkeys could provide 4.32 gigawatt hours (GWh) of energy. According to the Energy Information Administration, the average U.S. home used 10,766 kWh in 2016. That means all that thermal storage in Thanksgiving’s main-dish favorite could power some 400 homes for an entire year.
So, how do you tap that energy? You can’t exactly roll into your garage and plug a hybrid vehicle into a turkey. But, you can use a turkey’s thermal storage capacity the same way you tap the thermal energy in the cooler that’s chilling the beer you might drink during a holiday football game. The mass of the turkey allows the grid to utilize a cold storage facility as an energy storage system.