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The energy transition requires lateral thinking and new approaches to move from traditional energy sources to cleaner alternatives, it presents one of the greatest challenges of our lifetime. The production of energy accounts for approximately 65% of total greenhouse gas emissions globally however in our modern-day climate it is essential for our progress forward. Renewable Energy solutions attempt to combat this issue however they present their own set of complications, their intermittent nature and integration into current systems has been the focus of many in this space. Renewable energy is the answer to decarbonising the energy landscape. However, there are still many in early development and further advancements in the manufacture and implementation are needed to secure their place as a sustainable and reliable source of energy.
Given the adoption of digital technologies across all industries it is no surprise the energy sector can also benefit. Digitalisation can improve the safety, productivity, accessibility and sustainability of energy systems around the world. Digital advancements can integrate renewable energy into electricity systems, improve the reliability of power grids and help reduce costs of access to electricity. By utilising data that already exists, digitalisation can get sustainable energy where it needs to be. With rapid change within the renewable energy industry, moving away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy sources, digital technologies are enabling dramatic changes to progress our energy systems. Digitalisation is instrumental for the energy transition and is driving decarbonisation and decentralisation, both of which are critical to achieving our ambitious net zero targets.
In this article we will look at the two most common sources of renewable energy and the impact digitalisation has had in these areas.
Solar is the fastest-growing renewable energy source globally, with an increasing average capacity of 40 percent every year. IRENA, the International Renewable Energy Agency, estimates that the “cumulative installed capacity of solar PV would rise to 8.519 GW by 2050 becoming the second prominent source (after wind) by 2050”.
The global solar industry is heavily driven by economies of scale and the opportunity for greater returns and as a result the focus has been on developing ever larger, utility-scale projects. Given the large-scale execution of this space, smarter asset management is essential to avoid large-scale revenue losses. Monitoring systems and high-quality data capture have been key digital advancements that have helped optimise operations on solar farms. Digitalisation in this space helps identify issues which could lead to asset underperformance or downtime and plays a key role in operational and financial decision making.
AI (Artificial Intelligence) is one of the biggest drivers of digital transformation in the solar industry. For any solar farm’s success, well maintained on-field equipment is essential and Predictive and Automated Maintenance ensures problematic issues are caught fast. An AI based advanced digital transformation plan helps to predict technical issues and failures and the predictive features help to automate and regulate the necessary responses. Blockchains have proven to be a breakthrough in solar with two revolutionising the industry.
Peer to Peer Trading of Energy
Blockchain’s use in P2P power trading has been a significant breakthrough. Homeowners can sell leftover energy produced from their solar installations in a localised manner and set their price and trade at will. Individuals can now settle their funds almost instantly without having to wait for their electricity bill and feed in traffics to settle.
Efficient Validation and Certification
With corporate social responsibilities front of mind for many businesses there is an increased need to move to eco-friendly solutions. However, the type of solar solutions implemented need to meet efficiency standards, Blockchain’s are allowing companies to provide validation and certification for every unit of energy they sell. Solar organisations are able to use blockchains to provide a smart contract with every unit of power larger corporations. In turn, buyers can validate their certificate of origin and fulfill business objectives of going, legitimately, green.
These are just some of the digital advancements already available on the market and many solar companies are reaping the rewards. Sophisticated data management systems can help many renewable energy developers overcome challenges in the sector. Industry players who are looking to develop large scale solar portfolios need to consider investment in digital technologies to avoid constrains and stay ahead of the curve.
According to DNV GL’s Energy Transition Outlook predictions, by 2050 wind energy will grow rapidly to represent a 29% share of world electricity generation and around 16% of world primary energy supply.
Digitalisation is an important part of the progression of wind power and many different technologies are being implemented from data visualisation, automation and digital workflow, advanced analytics, cloud computing, cybersecurity, drones and UAV’s, augmented and virtual reality and blockchain. All are making an impact in the renewable energy space but the function gaining the most benefit could easily be operations and maintenance (O&M) of wind farms.
Traditional O&M activities are essential and timely, the old approaches relied on reactive decision making and any undetected problems would be detrimental and expensive to correct. With approximately 10 to 20% of the total cost of energy for wind projects being O&M. Previous monitoring systems such as SCADA lack the sophistication needed to provide real-time, high-quality data to allow early-stage intervention on any issues. Digital O&M has revolutionised the wind sector and allows operators more control over turbine functionality.
Many modern wind turbines have been equipped with sensors to capture accurate raw data. Unobtrusive computational sensing through radar-based acoustic signature, drone-based imagery and other related digital technologies allows multi-sensor fusion for enriching data capture across various components. Capturing this data is the critical first step.
From here, data management and transformation techniques are essential to help cleanse and merge the data to make it fit for consumption by analytical engines. The use of data-driven digital twins allows for a virtual representation of the wind turbines that spans its lifecycle. From this real-time data and predictive simulation and analytics insights can be generated on performance to support with proactive decision-making and preventative maintenance. Combine this with artificial intelligence and machine learning, new parameters and lead indicators can be established based on historical data. This data can be analysed and tracked with advanced algorithms to better understand the current and future state of critical turbine components. As revolutionary as these analytics are, they will be completely irrelevant if the insights are not accessible by the operator in the right format in a timely manner. By linking this data to ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems it ensures a process-driven approach in which information is actionable.
Though these digital advancements have fast tracked wind and solar capabilities, they raise their own set of challenges, including the evident need for qualified talent to operate these technologies. CSG Talent’s access to diverse talent pools including those in the digital realm have allowed us to help many companies in the renewable energy sector to secure suitable and relevant talent. Sourcing the best talent within clean technology will help solar and wind companies to excel in their digital evolution and stand out as competitors in the market. Our renewable energy recruitment experts are highly knowledgeable on the market, candidate motivations and allied industries to seek relevant digital and technical talent with transferable skills to implement within renewable energy. IF you are keen to hear more on the talent impact technology advancements is presenting, please get in touch with our renewable energy and clean technology recruitment team, alternatively explore our latest insights or job openings at CSG Talent.