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Samuel Knight- How emerging technology is impacting the renewable energy sector

Posted on 28 November 2019

Samuel Knight- How emerging technology is impacting the renewable energy sector

From the Internet of Things (IoT) to machine learning, new and emerging technologies are shaking up nearly every industry, and the renewables sector is certainly no exception. Tech is at the heart of driving solar, wind, tidal and other forms of clean energy, however, the rapid advancements in digital capabilities mean the industry is quickly evolving. Power generation, transmission and distribution are all going through a revolution and this is impacting client and consumer expectations - as well as putting a strain on talent.  Here’s everything you need to know about how emerging technology is impacting the renewable energy sector.

Emerging technology: Growth of AI in renewable energy

According to a report published by Infosys, 48% of the energy and utility sector agree that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is fundamental to their organisations’ success and 46% say their firms are building AI into the company ethos. Google, for example, has started applying machine-learning algorithms to part of its fleet of renewable energy projects. Using weather forecasts and historical turbine output data, it trained a neural network to predict what wind output would be 36 hours in advance. This boosted the value of Google’s wind energy by 20%, by now being able to tell the grid in advance when and how much energy a given wind farm will deliver.

Artificial intelligence also plays a huge role in creating efficient microgrids. These are energy grids that can operate either autonomously or while connected to a larger traditional grid. They provide energy independence, efficiency and protection during emergencies. Machine learning capabilities of artificial intelligence with microgrid controllers allows for systems to be continuously adapted and improved.

Emerging technology: Blockchain and the Internet of Things

Although usually associated with sectors like finance, blockchain technology and the advancements in the Internet of Things is massively changing the renewables landscape, particularly energy grids. A number of start-ups, in fact, are already using blockchain as a tool to make energy grids more accessible and sustainable by promoting data-sharing in real time.

With the correct applications, devices can autonomously buy and sell energy at the optimal times, optimise energy system settings in a real-time context and monitor and analyse performance of energy-consuming devices.

By creating grids that are linked to blockchain, consumers have total control over where they source their power from. This also allows the public to access information on the production itself, which inevitably drives competition and promotes sustainable energy. A smarter electricity grid giving consumers transparent energy choices could push for more integration of clean energy, and increases the chances of cities meeting their zero-carbon emission goals.

Energy storage

Energy storage is largely valued for its rapid response. Most storage technologies can begin discharging power to the grid very quickly, where as fossil fuel sources tend to take longer to ramp up. Efficient storage is one of the most important components of ensuring renewable energy success. As sources like wind and solar tend to have variable outputs, it’s important to have the technology available which will ensure that excess energy is transferred to power storage devices. The tech utilised for this is always being adapted and improved, and there’s no doubt that emerging technologies will significantly shape this in the upcoming months and years.

The need to attract more tech talent to the renewable sector

The lack of skilled professionals entering the energy sector has been documented as a critical problem for a long time now. However, with climate change becoming an increasingly urgent global issue, more businesses and people are demanding renewable energy - adding strain to existing talent shortages. Now, with most clean energy projects driven by new technology, there is also the added need for skilled tech professionals too.

Unfortunately, the industry has not been glamorised as a career of choice and, therefore, young talent are chasing careers with well-known brands like Google and Amazon which are known for being innovative and tech-driven. Renewables, of course, is also an excellent sector for providing opportunities, and this must be shouted about more.

Many of the great tech professionals belong to the younger generations, thanks to them being digital-natives and growing up with emerging technologies. To attract these individuals, it’s vital that renewable energy companies are engaging with this talent pool and prioritising them in their candidate attraction strategy.

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