Wind and water energy have played a part in the renewable energy transition for a few decades now. Solar energy however, is quite literally expected to hit it home. The domestication of renewable energy sources through photovoltaic panels (PV) has both increased the clean energy production and public awareness significantly. The obstacles for installing one’s own PV-installation are rapidly moving out of the way. It is therefore no surprise that the number of PV-panels is growing exponentially. The reduction of costs also leads to more industrial solutions. These so-called ‘solar farms’ can go on to provide thousands of households with electricity. However, both on the domestic and industrial level, there are still many challenges. For example regarding placement, growth rate and yield optimization.
With the comings of the internet, smartphones and supersonic airliners the world is becoming smaller and smaller. Technology enables us to cross timezones in a matter of seconds. This makes it almost unthinkable, that finding solutions to sustainable energy challenges is not a global affair. One such technology that can aid us in this quest is satellite imagery. With a growing number of high-resolution satellites in the sky and more and more non-commercial projects, the accessibility of valuable data is increasing every day. There are potential applications in many energy subfields such as biomass extraction, wind mapping and PV-placement. Satellite images offer unmatchable scale and high temporal resolution, which makes utilizing these data for global solutions a very appealing proposition.
The renewable energy transition gives rise to new kinds of problems, which require a new kind of thinking to resolve. With more localized energy production, the traditional ideas of distributing energy are no longer satisfying. Aside from localized energy production, renewable energy sources like wind and the sun, are inherently intermittent. The sun only shines during the day and the wind doesn’t blow continuously. The moments that we need the energy the most don’t necessarily coincide with the peaks in energy production. There is an inevitable need for storage capacity. Batteries are however notoriously voluminous and expensive. Hydropumps can function as energy storing units, but are decentralized by nature. The solution lies in self-learning and data-driven applications, unifying all components of the energy grid.
A revolution is going in the tech community and it is due to the technology that drives the Bitcoin. It is called the ‘blockchain’ and serves as a new way to think about how we perform transactions. So called cryptocurrencies are the products that are based on this principle. It combines some of the most succesful developments in the tech community of recent years (the internet, open source software, cryptographic hashing and cloud computing). The possibilities are only just starting to become clear. However, it is certain that they extend far beyond money transactions. The blockchain for example has potential applicability in the exchange of green energy within local communities. It is expected that they will form a central link in automating and securing the renewable energy trade.
The goal of investing in a greener energy production system is to try and realize a better future for our children. We are well aware that this is far from a certainty. Even if worldwide climate agreements are kept, the chances that global warming will be inevitable are realistic. Not everyone is aware of this fact and increasing awareness might be one of the most important tasks of the renewable energy community. It is clear that the next generation will have to do the most of the work in the renewable energy transition. Therefore it is important to start teaching them early enough, where the world is headed. Sobolt wishes to contribute to this by educating children en adults alike.