Carbon emissions from fossil fuels hit an all-time high in 2018. You don’t need to be an expert to know that’s not good for us, our planet or our future.
The world’s increasing population and growing energy consumption means that this problem isn’t going away, it’s accelerating.
And although renewable energy sources now power around a quarter of the world’s energy, there’s been concern that it will never be reliable enough to fully replace fossil fuels.
But artificial Intelligence (AI), along with a slew of advanced technologies such as machine learning, deep learning and advanced neural networks, have demonstrated huge potential to transform the renewable energy sector and address these worries.
Over the next several years, AI is expected to boost efficiencies across the sector by automating operations in the solar and wind industries - the leading sources of renewable energy.
One of the biggest challenges that solar and wind have faced is the unpredictability of the weather. Although there’s technologies in place for weather forecasting, sudden changes in climate are common and difficult to predict. This affects energy flow and makes it tricky for the renewable energy sector to balance supply and demand - upsetting its supply chain.
However, new technologies in AI and machine learning are helping solve this issue and are building confidence in renewable energy.
Catalonian weather analytics start-up, Nnergix, collect weather and energy data and then use machine learning algorithms to predict the state of the atmosphere in a region.
This process includes high-resolution weather forecasting images - generated from satellites - which are then used to generate both large-scale and small-scale weather models.
The company offers three main services including a solar energy solution and claims that forecasts can range from six hours to 10 days in advance - with their data updates occurring eight times a day.
This information is allowing both solar and wind farm operations to optimise their operations based on the weather, reducing cost and making them more efficient.
Bought by Google in 2014, DeepMind AI are also weather forecast Nostradamus.
Their algorithm can tell you the electricity generation that a turbine will produce 36 hours in advance – putting an end to the unpredictability surrounding wind energy.
Based on these predictions, wind farms can optimise their commitments to deliver a precise amount of electricity at a precise time. This has been known to increase the value of wind energy by about 20%.
DeepMind’s machine learning can also be used to reduce energy consumption in demanding places like data centres. It’s been said that this application cooled off Google’s data servers by 40%, which reduced their energy costs in the process.
Like DeepMind, Power Factor’s single cloud-based remote asset management platform harnesses machine learning to streamline processes, reduce costs and improve ROI.
Their platform, Drive 2.0, integrates AI and machine learning to provide historical performance analyses, root-cause and downtime analyses, as well as remote technical asset management.
This tells portfolio managers and field technicians where they’re losing operational performance and helps prioritise events according to IEC standards - shelving non-critical faults according to business logic.
This machine-led way of working has been known to save hundreds of hours per month on labour, reduce human intervention by as much as 90% and save millions for a single wind farm.
Power Factors tailor their platforms depending on where they’re deployed. For wind turbine performance management, it is also able to deliver advanced wind turbine analytics, performance engineering and operating efficiency gains, plus improved loss allocations.
AI and machine applications can transform the renewable energy through increased efficiency, which in turn will fuel growth of the sector and hopefully accelerates its adoption.
It’s an encouraging sign that companies the size of Google are getting involved. However, I expect we’ll have to wait until major Power-gen corporations get involved in the space to see it make a real impact on our planet and our future.
There’s lots of new projects and ventures happening in this space already, which means jobs. If you would like to talk about your recruitment plans or a looking for a role in this area, please email me at Henry.Longhurst@industrial-cm.com.
Sameer and Marcel discuss the part the future 'Smart Factory' plays in facilitating a 'Dark Warehouse'. Click to listen now.