Top 5 Energy Trends – 2021

Top 5 Energy Trends – 2021

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Global warming is number one priority and there are two major strategies to reduce our overall carbon footprint: 

a) Energy Savings by making them more efficient and reduce consumption and 

b) Alternative Clean Energy to reduce use of carbon fuels by using more renewables and nuclear generation.

Energy savings innovations come from two broad approaches:

1.      Continuously Optimize and avoid/reduce waste of energy

2.     Bring Better Technologies that use lesser energy

Of the many innovations that are promising, the following five specific trends caught our attention and imagination. Some of these innovations have been around conceptually for a long time. Some solutions have combined the new technology advances, brought the costs down for easy adoption. The following are some impactful innovations that will trigger their own trends in this journey to make this world a better place.

1. POWER OVER ETHERNET (POE) LIGHTING– REDUCED ENERGY AND INCREASED JOY OF CONTROL

Lighting in buildings is one of the major users of electricity. It accounts for 15% of global electricity consumption. Especially in hotels, hospitals and large commercial complexes this is very high. A recent innovation is to use energy sent over network packets by using a combination of Ethernet PoE network technology with low energy bulbs. A 5 Star property, Sinclair Hotel in Fort Worth, Texas has been fitted with this technology and is amazing to see how they have reduced 35% of energy consumption for the entire lighting. In addition, they have created an extra ordinary ability to dynamically manage the entire lighting as a single system. Every bulb in the entire hotel can now be digitally managed, and adjusted for color and brightness, to fit every need of the use around it, at any time. Guests can control the lights in their own rooms through mobile phones and Alexa.

Power Over Ethernet Lighting in Dallas. One of the latest trends in energy management
Source: SmartCitiesWorld

2. TURNTIDE MOTORS – SMART DIGITAL MOTORS TO REDUCE ENERGY USE

Motors are used all around in our lives. The analog motors consume more than 47% of world’s electricity. These motors have not changed The More than 300 million electric motors are used in infrastructure, large buildings and industry globally. Over 30 million are sold each year just for industrial purposes and these top 20 motor manufacturers are leading the charge.

These motors, by their very technology waste more than 50% of the energy they consume. Turntide Smart Motor System is the first huge revolution in motor technology in our lifetimes. It brings Efficiency at all speeds, using Connected Intelligence, Precision Control and does not use any rare earth minerals. The overall carbon footprint reduction is amazing with these motors. Turntide is one of the elite promising companies who received an investment from the Amazon $2 Billion Climate Pledge Fund

Turntide motors are a new thing which reduces energy massively.
Source: turntide.com

3. CONTROLLING ENERGY LOSSES – FROM GENERATION TO OUR DEVICES

We never think about the amount of energy wasted before it reaches our incoming meters. Transmission and Distribution (T&D) losses in 2019 was 0.89 quads of energy in 2019 (~ 261 TWh). The losses on the transformers are the biggest contributor to these T&D losses.

 

Maintaining transformers in perfect working condition is the key to keeping them at best performance. With Solar, Wind and other renewables becoming more common, there is a need to store energy in batteries and later on distribute it for consumption during peak demand hours.

 

Monitoring transformers and batteries constantly, digitalizing their management and maintenance is the only way to keep them at their best. Temperature, Power Quality, Harmonics and the load conditions, all impact the performance of the transformers and batteries. A lot of new innovations are happening around the monitoring of these and help manage large distribution networks with efficient load management. The cost of deploying these devices and more importantly having them run regularly defines the viability of these solutions.

Estimated US Energy Consumption 2019
Source: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

One such innovation by a Georgia Tech group is called Gamma. This is a very powerful power quality monitoring technology, which is very less expensive. It is easy to deploy, monitor and manage large fleet of transformers and large energy storage equipment. It uses low power communication technologies and collects performance data from the harsh field conditions. The data that is collected will help make the grid more intelligent, to manage all the components of the distribution system, to make them more efficient. There are many other innovations happening in this area, both with Transformers and Large Battery storages.

4. USING THE BEST ENERGY SOURCES – REDUCE CARBON AT ITS ORIGIN

 

It is an entirely another story to see how much energy we lose during the generation itself – it is 24.2 quads (7092 TWh) of energy lost in electricity generation. [1 TWh = 1000 MWh = 1000000 KWh]. Improving efficiency in the generation itself will be the best approach to reducing our carbon footprint.

 

Moving to nuclear and other renewables is seen as the best way to decarbonize power generation. There are so many interesting options emerging in this renewables space. These get regularly updated on TechThatMatters.com Two notable innovations are a) Energy producing trees and b) Energy producing water barricades.

Tree-shaped Wind Turbine: This nature-inspired wind turbine is designed like a tree to generate local sustainable electricity. It’s called the Wind Tree and it’s developed in France by New World Wind. Each tree is made up of 54 micro-turbines called Aeroleaf, producing up to 2400kWh per year. Wind Tree can provide energy for 100-sqm of low-energy office space, 15 streetlamps or 83% of an average household’s consumption (excluding heating).

Tree Shaped wind turbines
Whirl pool turbine

Whirlpool Turbine: Inspired by nature, Turbulent Hydro has developed a decentralized hydropower plant that can be installed at every natural height difference in a river or canal and requires simple civil works.

 

The fish-friendly vortex is resistant to small debris and sand. It takes a week to install and uses natural whirlpool to power up to 60 homes per turbine, making it cost-efficient and the future of local energy production.

5. REAL-TIME ENERGY MANAGEMENT (RTEM)

All these innovations are taking root, and replacing our traditional generation, distribution and usage technologies installed over the last century. Replacing them is not something that we can do over night. While we prepare for these modern technologies to get mainstream, there is a need for our existing technologies to be managed better. At the very least, we can try and identify avoidable wastage. We can take measures to reduce those wastages and reduce our carbon footprint, as much as we can. This is an immediate step that we can take.

Of all the uses of energy, Residential and Commercial use of Energy account for 40% of the total energy consumption across all fuel-types. Real-Time Energy Management (RTEM) systems are becoming very important additions to buildings, both new and old for better management of not just energy but all resources including human effort. Building Automation Systems form a core of this movement.

Of all building consumption, more than a third of the energy is consumed by building properties that are less than 20000 sq. ft. in size. The challenge with these smaller properties is they are too small to justify deployment of full-blown Building Automation Systems (BAS). Deploying IoT devices for monitoring and control of the various amenities in these buildings, including Lighting, Heating, Ventilation and Cooling systems. Smart BAS-Lite solutions that are capable of taking advantage of cloud technologies, easily available connectivity and IoT devices, are becoming popular.

With workspace comfort and health becoming more important than ever, there is a trend to have Comfort, Health (air-quality) and Energy Management to be integrated into these holistic solutions. We will see more of these deployments, with smart/intelligent central intelligence to optimize a space for a holistic experience of workspaces and homes.

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