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Renewable Energies powering ahead with major advances in technology

The battleground for engineering innovation 2020 and beyond.


Major trends influencing the future growth in the sector.

The renewable energy industry is primed to enter a new phase of growth driven largely by increasing customer demand, cost competitiveness, innovation, and collaboration. As reported In MIT News - there is a race on for engineers to develop energy conversion and storage technologies from renewable sources such as wind, wave, solar, and thermal. Although many challenges exist, there have been great strides forward already in the acceleration of photovoltaics and harnessing of energy from waves and the move away from fossil fuels.

Advanced engineering will be key to new innovations needed to push advanced technologies in 2020 and beyond for renewables to replace fossil fuel power generation altogether.

The economic assessment

According to Deloitte for the first time ever, in April 2019, renewable energy outpaced coal by providing 23 percent of US power generation, compared to coal’s 20 percent share. In the first half of 2019, wind and solar together accounted for approximately 50 percent of total US renewable electricity generation, displacing hydroelectric power’s dominance.

Declining costs and rising capacity factors of renewable energy sources, along with increased competitiveness of battery storage, drove growth in 2019. This steady decline of prices for battery storage has begun to add value to renewables, making intermittent wind and solar increasingly competitive with traditional energy sources.

However, a recent report analysis by Vox roughly 80 percent of global energy consumption still comes from burning fossil fuels due largely to the resistance to eliminate carbon subsidies. As the impact of climate change on the environment becomes increasingly drastic,there is a mounting sense of urgency for researchers and engineers to develop scalable renewable energy solutions.

The trends

In some ways developments in the power generation sector will have significant changes in the future of ‘renewables’. Global Data, a leading research and analytics company in addition to Interesting Engineering have defined the leading trends that are likely to shape the industry in 2020 and beyond.

They have identified the most important to be:

1. Electric Car adoption

Which will need infrastructure and the largest power utility companies are investing in this. Increasingly, power utilities are collaborating with EV manufacturers to boost their offering in areas such as EV charging, vehicle-to-grid (V2G) services, energy storage and renewable energy sources.

2. Digitalisation

Cybersecurity, AI, Big Data, Cloud Computing, Robotics, Blockchain and the Internet of Things (IoT) are being seen as the top seven technologies that will have the maximum impact on the sector over the next three years. Cybersecurity, particularly is receiving the maximum attention from power companies to protect grids from cyberattacks. Power utilities have realised the crippling effect that cybersecurity issues can have on the grid and are willing to heavily invest to guarantee protection. IoT is helping power companies to remotely monitor and manage their assets. Using IoT, utilities can also conduct predictive asset maintenance.

3. Grid-scale battery storage and need for better batteries

Energy storage installation among end-users (renewable energy generators, grid operators and distributed generation) is expected to witness larger growth due to smart grid development.

The financial aspect of energy storage in a wide range of applications and the falling system cost would likely result in the rapid growth of battery energy storage solutions. Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries are emerging as crucial for energy storage.

Much work has already been done to develop better and longer-lasting batteries, as well as other means of storing any energy generated from renewable sources. 2020 should be no exception, with energy industry leaders pushing to develop and promote better energy management and storage. This will also require greater grid flexibility to allow energy firms to balance supply and demand in a highly variable market.

4. Microgrids and grid parity

The microgrid demand in the power sector continues to grow, driven by the need for resiliency, energy security and remote area electrification. Resilience allows grids to deal with increasingly extreme weather conditions for energy planning.

In addition grid parity is achieved when an alternative energy source can generate power at a level cost of electricity that is less than or equal to the price of power from the electricity grid. With some renewable energy sources, like solar, becoming more popular, many utility companies are looking to attain grid parity ASAP.  This trend will be just as important in 2020 as in previous years.

5. Distributed energy resources (DERs)

According to Deloitte, electricity customers, across residential, commercial, and industrial segments increasingly seek to save money, use cleaner energy sources, ensure resiliency, and gain more control over their energy use. And utilities, especially those facing rising state renewable portfolio standards and corporate carbon reduction goals, seek more flexible resources to help balance the growing supply of variable resources such as wind and solar. They also seek to shave peak demand, avoid costs of building new generation and transmission, and further engage customers. They see the requirement for small scale distributed energy resources (DERs) which are small-scale power generation or storage technologies that typically range from 1 to 10,000 kW. Examples include community-scale renewable tech, and combined heat and power units (CHP).

The Need for Highly Specialist Engineering Expertise

One of the biggest challenges facing the industry is the availability of R&D Engineering Expertise in areas such as: Photovoltaics Research, Power Electronics, Power Storage, Battery Efficiency, eAutomotive, Smart Grid, IOT and Low Energy Technologies. Many companies are suffering from a critical lack of specialist expertise required to deliver real innovation first to market. It is extremely difficult for companies to attract permanent employees with all the right skills and experience required for these projects and there is a major shortage of specialist suppliers in the contract and services market you can rely on.

There are some companies, such as CIS Electronics Engineering who have almost two decades of experience in supplying advanced engineering skills and services to customers in all these areas. CIS has a strong track record in providing highly specialist contract and consultant engineers to many of the tech giants in this space, ranging from Power Electronics, Embedded Software, Battery Technology, Storage and Safety. CIS have been involved in many of the leading innovations over the past decade and are ideally positioned to lead the way in the supply of the expertise required for the future. It’s not that the skills don’t exist, it’s all about understanding the profiles required, knowing where to find them and having a range of modern delivery models to secure them for their customers.

 For more information on how CIS can help you, please contact Richard McCullagh - Commercial Manager at: richardm@cis-ee.com or telephone +34 963943500.