Q&A: Sustainable Energy

After our New Energy webinar that took place on June 24, it is evident that - whether for virtuous reasons or as a tribute paid to sustainability requirements - New Energy is no longer a caprice but a genuine necessity for the enterprises. With a primary instance of Shell and the imposed urge to reduce its carbon footprint up to 45% by 2030, fellow companies might be facing the exact same challenge sooner than expected.

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In line with covering certain advanced technologies this industry giant would consider investing in and paving all the way to the matter of carbon neutrality and its implications for energy storage, we also received numerous questions that did not have a share of the spotlight during the webinar. So, just in case you are particularly eager to acquire a more in-depth understanding of the subject, we have piled up Raul's answers to the top questions in order to frame your knowledge in a broader context. And if you are ready and steady by now, then it's time for the "go" part.

Q: How can AI algorithms deal with the vast differences between wind-farm locations?

A: One of the key advantages of AI algorithms is their ability to adapt and learn from different situations, while a normal computer program would struggle. As we build more wind farms we can use the data of the new farms to improve the AI, eventually, the AI will have seen enough diversity of windfarms so that it works in most cases. There will always be special cases where the AI is not suitable, but the current AIs work on most cases, enough to make them very impactful.

Q: Several technologies involve large structures - wind turbines, mega batteries, gravity storage - which, in return take up a lot of space, and the public perception is often not positive. How can we deal with that?

A: It's true a lot of sustainable technologies take up a lot of space, yet there are 3 main ways to deal with this issue and avoid disturbing the public.

  1. Sustainability has a generally positive image due to its environmental, political, and economic effects, we can use these advantages along with good marketing and public awareness campaigns to turn these large sustainable structures into a positive thing to see. We already see some regions using wind farms and solar panels to advertise themselves as clean and futuristic places, by promoting this perception we can help people become more tolerant towards the structures
  2. Smart planning is also key, during development we should take into account the cultural heritage of the area and visual impact of the structures in order to minimize the disturbance it causes, we are not going to satisfy everyone but a little forethought goes a long way at minimizing negative impacts
  3. Off-shore sustainable plants are becoming popular for this reason, the price of space on land and the proximity to populations makes placing the structures in the ocean more appealing, offshore solar farms are almost imperceptible from land, and offshore wind can be placed off coasts that are not very popular. Also, new technologies are emerging like space solar or underground gravity-storage which keep the structures out of sight.

Q: What about the grid stability factor and how it could be treated in the future?

A: Grid stability is one of the main arguments against sustainable energy sources: wind is unreliable, and solar only works during the day. So, how can we ensure energy all the time? This is why the IEA and many great scientists agree that energy storage is such an important and emerging topic. Using energy storage we can increase the renewable energy sources and store backup energy for the times when renewables produce less. This was exactly the business case for the Tesla Mega Battery, they stored renewable energy cutting the need for natural gas powerplants during "peak hour", and it worked so well that many other mega-batteries are being built. Energy storage is the key to sustainable grid stability. Also, new technologies such as Enhanced Geothermal and Space Solar will also help provide continuous energy.

Q: What is your personal view on decentralized generation, implying the mini-grid, when combined with demand-side management (the Internet of Things)?

A: Decentralized generation is growing very fast, the concept of placing smaller power sources closer to the consumer rather than having large central plants brings a lot of benefits. It improves availability, makes generation more efficient, and cuts the need to transport energy. Demand-side management also has a lot of potentials, using different sensors and smart devices to get better data on how energy is used can greatly help improve energy planning and efficiency. These techniques combined with the increased availability of energy storage could really help create smaller autonomous sources of energy. Large-scale centralized generation is still going to be popular in the next decade or two, but increasing government subsidies, legal precedent, and incorporation of energy sources into building and area planning will help the rise of decentralized generation.

As a (very pleasant) bonus, we would like to remind you that the recording is now available here , meaning that you have an all-time access to the webinar. Sounds like an opportunity to share it with somebody, doesn't it? Stay tuned for the upcoming events as it is only the beginning: Bit - we learn, we lead 🚀.

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