The market of renewable energy is booming in the last several years all around the world. Technologies such as Photovoltaics (PV), Wind or Fuel Cells are a viable option, not only for limited mission critical applications but for large scale Utility projects. Renewables are taking their potential from the Micro-Grid level to the Smart Grid level. Visiting Spain over the summer with my family, I was personally very impressed with the advanced development of PV and Wind in the Andalusia region. It didn’t surprise me later to learn from the numbers that Spain has almost a quarter of the European Wind production with about 20MW installed capacity. During my trips to China in the last several years I’ve seen the major direction towards renewable energy there, China promising to get in the front of world’s Smart Grid initiatives. This year China passed 40GW of installed based Wind power taking the world leadership in the field.
It is obvious that I am presenting the Renewables topic with lots of admirations. As a Senior Member of the Power Engineering Society, I remember calling the word about ten years ago; saying that soon, Power Engineering will be a fading profession as it is totally abandoned by the Western Universities higher education systems. Electrical Engineering departments around the world choose to concentrate in topics related to Wireless Communications, Signal Processing and other “COOL” topics. But something changed in the last several years and Power Engineering came back on track due to Government incentives for infrastructure and renewable power. Suddenly, Smart Grid and Renewables lead the front of technology utilizing all other engineering trades. This trend is just a start as Utilities around the world are just at the beginning of their transformation while the Sustainability movement around the world is slow but sure getting into business mainstream.
While all this looks good, there are also disappointments. Solyndra, a solar company filed for bankruptcy a couple of month ago in spite of utilizing Government backed up loans. In a “domino” effect another company Beacon Power filed for bankruptcy this week. Beacon Power, a spin of the rotary UPS company StaCon that might sound familiar to people watching UPS technology along the years. The company has a great high speed flywheel technology utilizing carbon fiber cylinders to get to 16kRPM. The international market didn’t see significant grow in rotary machines applications since the Telecom Boom days. Now is a good chance for such technology to prosper stabilizing and backing up the DC link of the flourishing Renewables market. For example, Beacon’s largest project included 200 flywheels supporting 20MW load (applications in the range of app. 2MM/MW).
More incentives are required to ease Renewables market penetration. Due to the global financial market situation, the gradient for new technologies and their development might be in certain geographies slower than expected. With that said we really need Renewables to succeed for the future of the Sustainability move in our society.
Till next time, kg