Lynk Insights: Renewable Energy

While it’s true that the green energy industry is gathering more and more momentum every year, its still got a long journey ahead of it before becoming the global go-to energy source. Garry Sandhu (industry professional with over seven years experience) shares his professional expertise on the fact that the challenge this energy is facing is perhaps bigger than thought.

The industry faces a complex challenge; managing a revenue downturn while meeting the demands of its technology-conscious consumers. The electric power and utilities sector finds itself pulled to economize and pushed to innovate.

Renewable resources have been playing an ever-increasing role in energy storage and have finally become competitive with natural gas plants. This is in large part thanks to the reduction of costs and through the effort of US green energy advocates. According to Garry, this is only the beginning.

“Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) and Senate Bill 350, mandates Investor Owned Utilities (IOU’s) and other electricity retailers to procure 50% of their energy needs from renewable technologies. This includes wind and solar in combination with lithium-ion batteries and Solid Oxide Fuel Cells (SOFC) fed from a natural gas. This will likely result in  a more rapid adoption than ever.”

Using more renewable energy storage batteries can give you a significant efficiency advantage in contrast to fossil fuels. This is elaborated further by Garry.

“Energy storage is valued for its rapid response. Most storage technologies can begin discharging power to the grid very quickly, while fossil fuel sources tend to take longer to ramp up. This rapid response is important for ensuring the stability of the grid when unexpected increases in demand occur.”

The ever increasing options of clean energy storage only adds to the argument that clean energy will one day be the main energy resource. Lithium-ion batteries are a perfect example of how this could be used in a variety of products, notably in electric cars companies such as Tesla. The utility of this product is explained further by Garry.

“Energy storage also becomes more important the further you are from the electrical grid. For example, when you turn on the lights in your home, the power comes from the grid; but when you turn on a flashlight while camping, you must rely on the stored energy in the batteries. Solar energy in combination with lithium-ion batteries are some of the behind the meter storage technologies that most reliably work.

Most recently grid disruption in Puerto Rico caused due to hurricane Maria left over 120,000 people without access to electricity. Temporary arrangements were made using Powerwall batteries to provide this needed electricity. This is a perfect example of distributed energy systems acting as a medium to restore grid and meet base load requirement.”

Various initiatives across Europe and the US have made this turn to more renewable resources, a successful transition. In 2017, Europe got 30% of its electricity from renewable sources, a 12% increase from 2000. This is along the right track for Europe to get its electricity from 50% renewable resources. The US may follow a similar path, as Garry details.

The cost of solar panels in combination with batteries is rapidly declining, further enabling solar to  grow from just 0.01% of the US electricity supply in 2006 to roughly 1.5% today, with a total capacity of over 47 gigawatts. By the end of the next decade, baseline projections are that solar will supply 5% of US electricity. But with more rapid technology innovationand advances in energy storage, there is potential to significantly expand solar deployment beyond these numbers.

The Department of Energy in the US launched various initiatives such as the Sunshot Initiative with the goal to drive down the costs of solar electricity to be cost-competitive with conventional fuels by 2020. It set what were considered aggressive cost targets at the time, but rapid declines in costs have enabled the industry to achieve the utility-scale cost target of six cents per kilowatt-hour three years early. Achieving a 50% price reduction in utility-scale solar would make it among the least expensive options for new power plant generation. At this price, solar would fall below the variable cost of many existing generators, enabling lower electricity costs for all consumers.

However, this seemingly healthy energy isn’t without its problems. Gas and oil although detrimental to the ecosystem, do allow for an energy source that isn’t reliant on uncontrollable conditions. Solar or wind energy, on the other hand, are reliant on nature for power. This understandably can be difficult to accurately predict.

Yet the future certainly looks bright for the industry as prices continue to drop and the variety of applications increase. A sentiment echoed by Garry.

“An unprecedented drop in the cost of producing clean energy has occurred in the last couple of years. It’s becoming the cheapest source of power for more and more countries. Both solar and wind power have undergone an annual average percentage drop in the cost of production in the mid to high teens. These heady declines in cost are likely to continue over the next decade.”

 

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