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Nick Boughton

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4 February 2019 Nick Boughton

Renewable energy usage is on the rise, explains Nick Boughton.

Concerns about environmental damage from fossil-fired power stations and a reluctance to uptake nuclear power have resulted in the use of renewable energy technologies on a large scale.

REN21’s Global Status Report shows 19.3 per cent of the global final energy consumed was provided by renewable energy, with modern renewables increasing their share to about 10 per cent. Renewable energy capacity grew through the use of solar photovoltaic cells, while hydropower continued to represent the majority of generation.

Renewable energy is key to fighting climate change, but it does produce highly variable power, which could lead to lower energy margins and potentially even blackouts on cloudy, still days. These risks, and the need for a highly distributed grid, have led to the creation of smart grids.

The first step in a smart grid upgrade is to improve infrastructure. Next is the addition of the digital layer, making the grid smart, followed by business process transformation to capitalise on the investment.

The smart grid is the end goal to take advantage of the full suite of features available for power grids. These include state estimation technology, which improves fault detection and allows self-healing and multiple power routes to improve reliability and resilience.

Modern smart grids can also handle two-directional energy flow, pushing towards the goal of distributed generation. This is achieved by allowing power from photovoltaic cells, fuel cells and charge from the batteries of electric cars to reverse flow. Two-directional flow increases safety while reducing reliability issues in an intelligent manner.

Algorithms can use data fed back to the system to predict how many standby generators are needed to cope with rapid increases in grid load. This promotes load reduction that can eliminate stability issues.  

Nick Boughton is sales manager at Boulting Technology