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Energy Technologies and Driving Innovation in 2018

Energy Technologies and Driving Innovation in 2018

| by Editor | Posted in Comment

The energy industry relies on new technology and research advancements to help provide reliable energy for a growing global demand. In 2018, progress in renewable developments and storage, smart home technologies and artificial intelligence are expected to set the tone for the emerging advancements within the global energy industry.

Over the last few years the development of renewables has been a quickly advancing area of the energy industry, with this continuing in 2018. Renewables, especially solar power, will continue to thrive as manufacturing costs continue to fall. As more companies and countries consider renewable energy as a supply option, the technological advances allow for this to be achievable. This translates into lower costs for building, operational costs as well as maintaining renewable systems. The cost of producing a solar panel has fallen by 70 percent since 2010, according to the International Energy Agency.

This decreased cost of solar production will help renewables become a much larger part of the global energy supply. BMI Research’s 2017 Global Renewables Outlook predicted that renewable energy capacity will double between 2016 and 2026. These outlooks are already proving accurate, as solar power increased by 30 percent worldwide in 2016. Renewable energy as a whole made up more than half the world’s new power generation capacity.

This increase in renewable energy will require amplified development of energy storage systems to support their full integration into the power mix. Energy storage systems can be anything from batteries to flywheels that help manage peak demand, provide backup power and become part of a larger on- or off-grid system. A variety of energy storage pilots focused on utilities storage popped up in 2017 and can be expected to continue in 2018.

Virtual power plants are one example of the exploration of innovative energy storage pilots. These systems are interconnected networks of independent solar panels, batteries and utilities that are remotely controlled by software and data systems. The group of storage systems are then customised to help each consumer manage and control electric use and better offset electricity supply disruptions.

This unique use of software and technology can also be combined with the latest generation of smart home assistants to provide greater flexibility and control over energy consumption. We can expect these smart systems to play a larger role in consumer trends going forward. This includes the increased use of smart energy meters that allow people to calculate their real-time energy use and take appropriate steps to cut energy consumption and costs in their home or office.

Artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and the Internet of things (IOT) — a network of devices with electronics and sensors that connect the objects and exchange data — will add another aspect to consumer control over homes and operations. IoT systems, also known as “Digital Twins,” are used in the industry to make operations more efficient. They will likely continue to be used in coordination with AI. Gartner predicts that more than 80 percent of enterprise IoT projects will have an AI component by 2022, which is a significant increase from the current 10 percent.

“The applications running as part of these 'Twins' can reduce the unplanned downtime for power generation machines by 5 percent and reduce operations and maintenance costs by up to 25 percent, resulting in millions of dollars in value,” explained Ganesh Bell, chief digital officer for GE Power, in an interview with Electric Light and Power. “The analytics running Industrial IoT data on these virtual machines is creating that value.”

These cloud-based projects could mean a future of machine-to-machine systems. Small-scale projects have already started to appear to test out the capabilities of this approach. In 2016, Microsoft worked on a Grid-Interactive Electric Thermal Storage system that connected nearly 500 IoT home water heaters to the Microsoft Azure Cloud. The machines monitored performance and energy consumption while making smart decisions about when to use energy or when to store hot water depending on the amount of renewable energy available in the system. These interconnected smart machines could make these decisions based on current information and past data. This is how these intelligent systems can help deliver more reliable and more affordable energy in the year ahead.

“We’re going to see broad applications for AI in the electricity industry: applied to data from smart meters, wind turbines, nuclear plants and drones used for remote plant inspection, we will solve problems that previously required humans to conduct hazardous and expensive inspections manually,” Bell said. “This application of AI has the potential to tangibly improve business-wide efficiency and increase the reliability of machines that generate the world’s power supply."

For energy consumers and providers, the year ahead will be about finding ways to meet demand for increased control and information with new products focused on renewable energy sources and emerging smart technology systems.

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