Paving way to Smarter Power

Posted on November 05, 2013
Posted By: Aurnav Gandhi
 

Challenges we face as a matter of fact:

  • - Change in weather patterns or Climate change

  • - Spurt in Population growth

  • - Rising standard of Living

  • - Ever increasing importance of electricity

  • - Increasing importance of energy efficiency

Market oriented, Prosperous & Green World

Utilities power our lives with a focus on large-scale coal and nuclear plants. Policy is driven by two key factors:  (1) the need for economic growth and (2) curbing emissions.

Wind Power: Wind is abundant, carbon-free and non-depletable. It uses no water, no fuel, and little land. Wind is also locally available, scales up easily, and can be brought online quickly. No other energy source can match this combination of features. Unlike coal, gas, and nuclear power plants, wind farms do not require water for cooling. As wind backs out coal and natural gas in power generation, water will be freed up for irrigation and other needs. Perhaps wind’s strongest attraction is that there is no fuel cost. After the wind farm is completed, the electricity flows with no monthly fuel bill. And while it may take a decade to build a nuclear power plant, the construction time for the typical wind farm is one year.

Solar Power: The Sun is the ultimate source of energy and life on earth. It provides us with a potentially unlimited amount of free, albeit intermittent energy without emitting CO2. Thus far, exploiting solar energy has not been cost-effective, but rapidly expanding supplies of high-grade silicon, growing production capacity and new advanced technologies are making solar energy one of the solutions for the global energy challenge.

For large-scale generation, concentrated solar plants (CSP) have been the norm but recently multi-megawatt photovoltaic (PV) solar plants have become more common. With technologies suitable for both large and small scale production, solar power may revolutionize our perception of energy.

Smart Grids: The smart grid refers to an electricity system that collects real-time data on supply and demand to make the entire grid more efficient and less prone to failure. In capturing this data, utilities are also better able to integrate renewable sources such as wind and solar into the energy mix and even store excess power. Smart meters provide utilities with up-to-the-minute information on energy use in homes and businesses. One branch of the smart grid idea is what's known as a "micro-grid," which is a smaller, self-contained energy system with local power sources that contributes to a larger grid but can become self-sufficient in the event of a system-wide failure.

Electric Vehicle: Electric vehicles (EV) and hybrids as transition phase can help in solving many problems, but only if the heart – the battery – is strong enough. Electric vehicles with lithium batteries are energy-efficient, increase energy security and reduce emissions (even though most electricity is created with fossil fuels). They could also create a virtual storage for energy, which allows us to use more renewables like wind and solar. Battery costs are expected to drop by roughly half by 2020, but even today, some plug-in hybrid vehicles are cost-competitive with hybrids and conventional gasoline vehicles over their life.

Carbon Capture and Storage: Carbon capture and storage (CCS) from coal power plants has considerable potential in terms of cutting carbon dioxide emissions, as coal accounts currently for about 40% of global electricity generation. Making CCS fully functional still requires much work both in the capturing process itself and the requirements set by it. Challenges in installing CCS include massive costs for building infrastructure, a potential decrease in the efficiency of a plant, an increase in water consumption and finding suitable locations for storage.

Maintaining economic growth requires cheap energy, and it is acquired with the increased use of coal. The downside of this is increased emissions, but they have been eliminated with carbon capture and storage. In addition to coal, important energy sources are nuclear power and wind energy. Together they fulfill the increasing demand for electricity, which is widely used also in transportation. This, in turn, is diminishing the emissions of the vehicles previously one of the biggest sources of CO2.

The demands in above scenario are somewhat contradictory: maintain the economic growth, but, at the same time, curb emissions. Ever since the beginning of industrialization, economic growth has been possible because the environmental issues were not considered important. Only after the awareness of the impending disaster for the environment increased and the public opinion turned increasingly in favor of protecting the nature, did the situation change. No more pollution, no more emissions; at least not as much as earlier.

How to achieve smarter power

  • - By improving key performance indicators of power plants such as capital costs, fuel costs, operation and maintenance costs, environmental costs, etc.

  • - By easing the road for the challenges faced by political decision makers and for investors in power plants.

  • - Introduction of smart systems in electricity networks.

  • - By obtaining a reliable power plant portfolio.

  • - By introducing more cogeneration.

  • - By improving reliability and availability.

Conclusion:

Single and simple solutions do not exist for securing a sustainable electricity supply for all people in the world. As wind and solar power generation cannot be relied on completely, natural gas and bio gas have excellent properties for serving as a back-up energy source for renewables. One thing is certain: electric energy is not only nice to have but it is also a crucial ingredient for economic welfare. The price of electricity has an effect on almost every single element in the economy. Therefore, each solution aiming at securing a clean and efficient long-term electricity supply must be judged against its costs. Ultimately, choosing the optimum generation portfolio to cover power demand is a most interesting task for the involved specialists and decision makers. They have to weigh multiple technical, environmental, economic and social aspects.

 
 
Authored By:
Aurnav Gandhi is an Associate Consultant with Infosys. He has close to 2 years of experience in the utility sector providing solutions involving Customer Service and Billing. He has been involved in projects around consulting, design, development and maintaining CIS, Meter to Cash Process, Rate Changes, Billing, Solution development.
 

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Comments

November, 06 2013

Malcolm Rawlingson says

I have not seen any change in weather patterns in the years I have been on this planet and weather events have not become more severe so I certainly dispute you saying that these are facts.

They are not. Hurricane Sandy has often been used as the "poster child" of extreme weather events but the FACT is that this was a low power category 2 hurricane coupled with a high tide on the Eastern seaboard of the US and Canada. There is no doubt it did a lot of damage but that is because we chose to build New York City plus a whole bunch of other densely populated areas in its path. That does not make the weather event more severe but it does increase the news coverage of the event and the dollars required to fix the damage. But extreme weather event - nonsense. Also you will note the Hurricane season in the Caribbean region has been very very absent this year - very different from the predictions made which once again have proven to be remarkably wrong.

Weather events are not becoming more severe despite what the looney tunes on CNN and the IPCC would have you believe.

You also neglected to mention that both solar and wind suffer from an incurable problem. We cannot control their fuel source. That makes them entirely useless to supply power to a modern industrial society. Solar panels consume vast areas of farmland and you forget that this is the other use of solar energy - producing food. You can produce all of the electricity you want but if people have no food to eat what good will that do. Giving up precious farmland to energy production is about the most stupid thing possible. It is the same crackpot argument that is used for bio fuels.

In a burgeoning population the number one priority is to produce food. That means you need energy sources that are highly concentrated and do not use up large areas of land. There is a very good reason why large scale power plants were constructed and that is the high megawatts per acre of land use. The bigger the population the less land we should be deploying to produce energy. You appear to advocate the exact opposite.

The net result will be reduced population but it will occur because you used up all the land for solar panels and wind farms and left none for the most essential of all uses - producing food for people to eat. The end result of that is large scale starvation.

I think you have your logic entirely backwards.

Malcolm

November, 07 2013

peter snell says

I must agree w/Malcom Rawlingson regarding land use for low-density energy production. Also, solar and wind are almost uselessly intermittent in most locations around our planet. Without highly efficient and cost-effective energy storage, they are almost useless without enormous backup capacity.

In the African bush solar cells and lead-acid storage may be efficient and cost effective enough to be useful. In most developed countries, efficient and cost-effective high-density energy storage does not exist, even in theory.

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