Microgrids and decentralised avenues for renewable energy are moving consumers away from the conventional centralised grids.
Innovation remains the name of the game as renewable resources rise to address energy issues and the questions of cost and supply-demand across the world. Closer home, India is projected to surpass the government’s target of producing half of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2030. While solar and wind projects dominate, newer trends are redefining the energy paradigm.
Storage Takes Centre Stage
How to balance energy generation and procurement, while keeping in mind the intermittent nature of renewable resources, is the key challenge today. The answer lies in bridging technologies such as Hybrid Energy Storage Systems, which combine two or more storage systems for both short-term and long-term use.
Seasonal storage too is catching up, for it mitigates variations in the availability of certain resources like solar, wind and water. Long-duration fuel cells aside, new battery solutions like sodium-ion and aluminium-air are rising as worthy candidates to replace dependability on lithium-ion, which is an expensive and rare earth metal.
“When it comes to non-chemical solutions, pumped hydroelectric storage, which involves flowing water and gravity batteries are being looked into with increasing interest,” says Naveen Khandelwal, CEO and COO of BrightNight India, a renewable integrated power company.
Going Beyond the Grid
Microgrids and decentralised avenues for renewable energy are moving consumers away from conventional centralised grids. The latest microgrid trend is South Korea’s three-mile bike lane covered with solar panels.
Built-in the middle of an eight-lane highway, its solar-panelled roof produces over 2,200 MWh of eco-friendly electricity. India, however, despite its potential, could produce only 7.9 GW of rooftop solar panels as of June 2022. Falling way short of its year-end target of 40 GW, the goal post has been shifted to 2026. “Eventually, consumers will become producers of energy.
But currently, our regulatory bodies are not ready for decentralised grids. A lot of DISCOMs are pushing back because they’ll lose both revenue and consumers,” says Harsha Meenawat, Senior Programme Manager (Energy) at World Resources Institute (WRI), India.
Consumption Gets Smart
It’s the age of the Internet of Energy because smart consumption devices ensure that every unit of energy is used productively to reduce wastage. Analysis and decision-making will become easier with smart meters. Old processes will be redesigned and repurposed to reduce energy by 50 or 60 per cent.
“In India, cooling usage requirements are high, compared to the West where heating is the main concern. Companies are now working on energy-efficient heat pumps and cooling systems, and making social and public infrastructure greener by utilising natural methods,” says Khandelwal.
Forces of Future
Even though India is the fifth-largest producer of solar energy, experts say solar-thermal, geothermal, hydro and green gas energy solutions have great possibilities.
“Many small industries with temperature requirements of less than 100-degree celsius are looking at the solar-thermal model to meet their immediate energy requirements,” says Kajol, Manager (Energy), WRI. Geothermal has been around for a while but is yet to get a firm footing in India.
“New developments, however, are taking place in and around Ladakh. GIS-mapping and environmental assessment studies are being done there to understand potential sites for plants,” she adds.
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New Age Alternatives
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NOTE – This article was originally published in newindianexpress and can be viewed here
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