The use of renewable energy is rapidly increasing worldwide - every year since 2011, more than 100 gigawatts (GW), or the total generation capacity of Brazil, is being added to the worlds energy mix. In 2013, clean energy accounted for 22 percent of global electricity generation, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).
While this spells good news for those who advocate the shifting of the global energy system away from fossil fuels to mitigate climate change, it poses a major challenge to electrical grid operators, who must maintain a stable grid even as they bring in more intermittent sources of energy such as wind and solar.
This is where the power of software technology comes in, says Patrick Plas, senior vice president of grid power electronics and automation at French energy solutions giant Alstom Grid.
Software can help the power sector meet many challenges, Plas tells Singapore Business News in a recent interview. Not only can it help keep grids stable even as more renewable sources are introduced, it can also allow operators to run their grids in a more energy- and cost-efficient way.
Renewable energy sources such as wind and solar produce power only under certain atmospheric conditions, and this intermittency introduces instability into the grid, explains Plas, who joined Alstom Grid in 2012 after a career in the telecommunications sector.
Headquartered in Paris, Alstom Grid is part of energy giant Alstom, which develops power and infrastructure solutions worldwide. Among the top three companies in the electrical transmission sector, Alstom Grid has an annual sales turnover of 3.8 billion euros, and operates in almost 90 sites worldwide.
Among the companys ideas for smarter, cleaner grids is smart grid software, made up of a network of sensors which monitor electricity flows within the grid, analyse them and execute decisions to optimise the grids operations.
This software is required to help manage the complexity of integrating various energy sources into the grid, says Plas. It can also make electrical networks more intelligent by carrying out demand response and support microgrids.
Demand response is a process by which electricity consumers are paid to reduce their consumption temporarily in exchange for payment, while microgrids are mini versions of centralised grids which can operate independently on renewable sources and connect to the main grid if needed.
A demand response program can manage spikes in energy use by getting some users on the grid to temporarily reduce energy consumption, freeing up power for heavier users. This could involve a commercial building raising its air conditioning temperature by one or two degrees Celsius for a short while - a method of meeting electricity demand without additional power generation.
Or, if a microgrid is generating more energy from renewable sources than it is using, excess energy can be stored in batteries for later use, says Plas.
All these processes involve rapid data analysis and quick decisions on where and how electricity should flow, which is what smart grid software does.
Plas adds that software can also analyse data for grid operators and provide a much clearer picture of the grids power output in relation to its capacity.
Source: Eco Business
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