- Features | August 14, 2018
The Energy Revolution: New Technology for a New World
Our world is rapidly changing. Deployment of more renewable energy across the globe is reinventing the way we produce and transmit power and, as a result, making our cities smarter. The incredible proliferation of information technology is permeating all types of equipment and applications. The confluence of these megatrends is creating the new energy Internet around us.
Even in the face of tariffs, solar power is projected to continue to grow in the U.S. Solar deployments are being supported by both market factors and local policy, such as the recent move to have all new homes in California provided with solar power.
This effort is not only in places such as California and Hawaii – more and more states, from New York to North Carolina to Arizona, are committing to major renewable energy goals for the near future. The expansion of both rooftop and utility scale photovoltaic (PV) installations places increasing importance on scientific advancement in assessing performance and durability.
The energy internet is more than solar power alone. Energy-efficiency technologies use advanced intelligence to transform the way we use and maximize electrical power in all buildings. Advanced energy management technologies have transformed the role of buildings from pure loads to interactive collaborators with the grid. Energy storage systems, using powerful banks of lithium batteries or other advanced technologies, are enabling new ways to store and use energy locally, exactly when it is needed. Electric vehicles are no longer just a means of transportation, but they are converging into a flexible extension of the energy infrastructure. Microgrids powering campuses and neighborhoods use technology to seamlessly integrate distributed energy resources (DERs), the grid, and buildings. These microgrids elevate resiliency, real time responsiveness, and the ability to optimize production and use of electricity.
Inverters, which connect DERs to the electrical grid, continue to grow in sophistication. Smart inverters are offering differentiated responses (such as voltage and volt/VAR responses) to best support the grid. This progression reduces grid challenges from DERs (e.g. intermittency) and leverages their distributed nature to make the grid stronger and more resilient. Inverters are also providing additional safety functionality such as arc fault protection and rapid shutdown of rooftop PV installations to support first responder safety and effectiveness.
We are even seeing a rapid development of the hydrogen infrastructure to support increased deployment of fuel cell technologies. Much is happening quickly, from a rapid increase in hydrogen fuel cell vehicles from companies such as Toyota, Honda, and Hyundai to industrial applications to a means of energy storage. The co-optimization of the electric, natural gas, and hydrogen infrastructures, which can be managed to allow energy to be stored and used in a myriad of ways to best meet particular needs will further change the energy domain in the next several years. These approaches will continue to evolve at a faster and faster pace, especially where market factors – including but not limited to demand-based pricing, renewable portfolio commitments, corporate social responsibility, and similar drivers – make it appealing to embrace new technological solutions.
These new technologies have literally revolutionized the energy infrastructure. We have moved from a very traditional, one-way electromechanical grid to an increasingly complex, intelligent, and cooperative web of distributed energy assets that can be fine-tuned in many different ways in real time to meet the customized needs of an energy consumer, companies, or society. New energ