Why flattening the curve has a new meaning for Solar

Why flattening the curve has a new meaning for Solar

For all States and Territories in Australia, we’ve been forced into some form of physical distancing, and we’re required to, if I can borrow the American term, ‘shelter-in-place’.  Probably my favourite Coronavirus messaging term to date.  I diverge.  We’ve heard much about this ‘flattening the curve‘ concept and I’m here to tell you why it has a new meaning.  Let me put myself at the center of this to illustrate the point.  

I’m working from home, I wake and near-after I have a coffee in-hand.  It’s probably the best part of my day. I observe the skies and the BOM app to see what the weather is doing.  This informs how I’ll be using energy for the day; washing machine, hydronic heating, dishwasher (if we had one).  My patterns are aligning with my Solar PV generation, and with this pandemic, I’m sure our collective energy profiles are changing, how can they not 

A typical daily residential energy consumption profile looks like this.  Choose the line with your number of household members and follow the curve over an average day in Victoria.  Note the time period is every half hour over a given day…. so you know what to do.

ESC Residential energy Profile

What is happening here? We rise, make a coffee, and warm the house, power on various appliances.  Our morning peak is about 7:30am, then head off to work and things settle until we return home.  We collectively return home at the same time, and by 6:30pm we hit our evening peak. This is inconvenient for the grid as we re-warm our houses, cook dinner, maybe do some domestic duties and chill.  So we’ve got two peaks and a lull in the middle.

Unfortunately, this consumption profile doesn’t align particularly well with our Solar PV generation.  CSIRO developed a typical solar generation curve based on a study it undertook, which looks like this.  We get a beautifully shaped bell curve, in the middle of the day!

CSIRO residential stidy on energy usage

We can now flatten the curve of our energy profile. Washing machines and dishwashers can run during the day, and our houses can be warmed evenly throughout the day. The peaks are lower, and the more we shift our usage to align with Solar PV generation, we’re in the right place. Our habits can change if we pay attention to our energy usage.

So why bother? The more we draw on our collective Solar PV, the less we’ll see overvoltage in the grid, we will have less reliance on coal-fired power and the planet, all while saving money.  If you’re looking at taking this concept further, hot water heat-pumps work perfectly with our Solar PV generation. 

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