Innovation is thriving in the renewable energy space and promises to deliver positive change. But for real success on the ground, what is needed is a robust, combined effort in the areas of technology, business models, policy and investment. Here are top 10 ideas and trends that we believe will shape the renewable energy landscape of the future and enable the transition towards a greener tomorrow…
Artificial intelligence (AI) has the ability to unlock the vast potential of renewables. Its powerful predictive capabilities will lead to improved demand forecasting and asset management. Failure to embrace AI will risk the sector falling behind the curve.
As India moves towards more decentralised sources of energy and intermittent power generation from rooftop solar and large-scale wind and solar, the electrolyser, with its ability to provide large flexible loads, could emerge as the missing piece in the renewable energy story story. An electrolyser is a device that splits water into hydrogen and oxygen using an electric current. When this current is produced from renewable energy, it can create green hydrogen. Leveraged appropriately, this technology could assist in the build-out of renewables, help manage the intermittent nature of wind and solar resources, and open up new opportunities for hydrogen producers as well as businesses, which could develop the software needed to integrate hydrogen into the country’s energy networks.
The fusion of agriculture and solar – where elevated panels shelter crops beneath – offers several advantages. For instance, it enables the same piece of land to be used for dual purposes, thus making the land doubly productive. While there is another view that this diminishes the performance of both, agro-photovoltaics is certainly a trend to watch as more and more projects get rolled out globally.
While the first step in the electric vehicle (EV) space is to ensure the availability of infrastructure for charging EVs on a large scale, vehicle-to-grid technology too will play a significant role as decentralised renewables become a reality in the Indian market.
Advocates of floating wind arrays note that the costs of onshore and near-shore wind energy have been falling steadily, as the efficiency of these technologies has been rising. The same trends, they contend, are likely to lower the costs of floating offshore wind.
A complex technology with a simple name, blockchain is a transaction-tracking technology that is the underpinning of cryptocurrency such as bitcoin and etherium. When a block stores new data, it is added to the blockchain. Multiple blocks strung together enable the tracking and monetising of energy loads, utility bills and other energy saving and energy producing options such as on-site renewables.
Storage technologies allow energy to be utilised when it is most cost effective or most urgent. There are a host of technology options, including batteries, compressed air and storage, pumped hydro, flywheels, weights, molten salts, ice and hydrogen. These technologies are becoming more sophisticated in their interaction with utility grids, microgrids, buildings and other infrastructure, and their costs are declining substantially.
Global electric grids are moving towards self-healing grids with advanced sensors and controls. These electric grids will be able to form separate segments with sectionalisers and reclosers, and within those grid segments, distributed battery storage and microgrids will be able to passively separate and power buildings or neighbourhoods. And when the grids normalise, the system can reconnect and operate as before. This trend will add significantly to grid resilience and reliability, and lead to higher power quality with no surges, sags or transients, which ruin digital equipment. It will also help lower costs, freshwater use, pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
The One Sun, One World, One Grid initiative envisages a common grid that will transfer solar power across countries. Already, cross-border energy transmission has started, though in a modest way. If the renewable energy targets being set by countries across the world are met, the dream of One Sun, One World, One Grid could well be achieved.
With ample resource availability and capability, India is well positioned to become a global manufacturing hub for renewable energy equipment and energy storage systems.