The Role of Technology in Renewable Energy

Renewable energy is seeing significant demand as more governments and companies focus on sustainability efforts. Statistics on renewable energy show that only 20% of the world’s current electricity comes from renewable sources. However, this number is expected to rise by more than 60% from 2020 to 2026 to over 4,800 gigawatts — the equivalent total global power capacity of fossil fuels and nuclear combined today.

Given this rapid change, a growing number of companies are looking for people who have green values and climate-related skills that can help them in this green transition. This has resulted in more graduates taking up specialized sustainability programs at university. These modern sustainability degree programs focus on renewable energy, sustainability, and social advocacy. And it is these fields of study that are poised to unlock a $26 trillion industry in low-carbon initiatives by 2030. More and more companies are looking to work with trained professionals who can support them in utilizing renewable energy, reducing packaging material waste, enacting sustainable investing practices, and so on. Moreover, graduates of such programs work with innovative technologies and immersive learning to deepen their understanding of sustainability so they are well-equipped to handle challenges in the field.

Renewable sources can become more effective and efficient through these technological developments, enabling institutions to work towards a sustainable future. This article will discuss how technology plays a crucial role in renewable energy:

Reduction of capital costs

There are several myths surrounding clean energy, with many pointing to how it’s not scalable or too expensive for mass adoption. However, renewable energy is cheaper and more potent — making it 65% more efficient than coal power generation. The current solar and wind power cost is 89% and 70% lower than their respective 2010 prices.

This reduction in capital cost has been primarily driven by technological innovation, forming a virtuous cycle. Advancements in technology can lower prices, increase competition in new markets, and raise the demand for renewable sources, prompting greater development. With reduced costs and other benefits, it’s not surprising that countries have adopted the mass use of renewable energy to power their cities. Nine American states already get 12% or more energy from wind power. In contrast, Germany, Europe’s largest economy, currently draws 25% of its energy from renewable sources, with increased projections by the year 2050.

Optimization of monitoring networks

Unlike nuclear power, coal, and natural gas-powered plants, many renewable energy sources rely on decentralized generating models spread over a large area. This can make monitoring and maintaining energy farms reliably challenging and cause a significant drop in efficiency. Advanced technology has been developed to conduct remote monitoring and analysis to combat these issues.

Solar farms benefit from technology that implements electroluminescence testing, enabling system owners to inspect large solar farms and look for damage after an extreme weather event. The old method of monitoring panels was to drive around at night and capture the panels on camera. To speed up image capturing, drone-based inspections can be automated to photograph the whole solar farm. This is used in conjunction with machine learning modules, which then analyze images to detect defective modules, making the inspection process more efficient and time-savvy.

Maintenance of energy supply

Considering how renewable energy often relies on climate and weather patterns, its output is often inconsistent compared to non-renewable sources. When dealing with periods when “the sun doesn’t shine, and the wind doesn’t blow,” it’s crucial that there be enough renewable energy stored during periods of excess generation. However, many current lithium-ion batteries have expensive and technical limitations that lose power over time, even when not in use.

While there is no wide-scale use of new technologies yet, research and development on energy-dense batteries are well underway for efficient energy storage; researchers are constantly experimenting with more suitable electrode materials and optimized device structures. As mentioned earlier, the need to innovate and improve energy systems is driving the progress of the technology, which ensures that the new batteries remain practical, stable, and safe for large storage systems.

Through ample research, sustainable tech can benefit society and the planet on a broader scale. Technology can make renewable energy more efficient and more affordable by reducing costs, optimizing monitoring, and maintaining the energy supply. It will only be a matter of time before renewable energy is adopted as the world’s primary energy source.

Authored by Rafaela Jimena
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