Space age renewable energy plans should not eclipse our work here on earth

New and old routes of renewable energy

In the past few years, there has been an historic surge in the development of solar energy. Nationally, politically, socially or in scientific forums, solar energy has taken a priority seat at the power generation table, directly or indirectly creating an opportunity for companies like ABB to be a part of the discussion.

A topic like solar energy from the moon demonstrates the rapid and unusual directions in which solar technology is growing, making it hard for most industry and technology experts to predict the sector`s technical or economic trends, even for the next five years. Some even feel that the solar revolution is reminiscent of the IT revolutions of the 1980s and 90s.

For example, Japan is working on solar concepts and technology to create a sustainable and reliable energy portfolio. A recent concept under serious consideration at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is the Space Solar Power Systems (SSPS) project, which is a space-based solar plant in geostationary orbit that could transmit a continuous and consistent beam of energy to Earth in order to generate electricity and hydrogen, unaffected by time of day, weather or clouds. JAXA`s goal is to set up a practical SSPS by the 2030s.

In Singapore, known for its scientific and technological R&D activities, scientists at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) have been busy developing next generation solar cell materials. The NTU Scientists call this new solar cell material “Perovskite,” which they say will be able to achieve panel efficiencies of 15 to 20 percent, and also be five times cheaper than thin film solar cells.

We may be developing the ability to transmit solar energy wirelessly from space via an artificial moon or satellites, yet it remains an open question whether we can successfully energize every remote part of the earth with a stable grid. Setting aside space, satellites and advanced long-term solar technology scenarios for a moment, let`s return to our very own immediate and critical remote energy needs, for example in the form of off-grid islands or other geographically isolated locations.

In the midst of so many interesting solar scenarios it is easy to overlook more down to earth applications of solar energy: eg. providing power to remote or isolated locations like islands or off-grid communities, including remote industrial applications

Globally, there is much emphasis on distributed energy systems and ways of integrating renewable or solar energy in such remote applications. All of the discussions, articles and forums on the matter should provide ideas enabling us to address the technological challenges hindering successful and optimum integration solutions – which are inherently instability issues. But at this point renewable hybrid integration is still seen as a nice to have option and diesel remains by far the most predominant energy driver in remote applications.

ABB is pioneering the development of end-to-end remote energy integration solutions for multiple hybrid energy grid management that can achieve the highest standards of stability, renewable energy penetration and reliability.

In short, there are five main steps involved in the integration solution:

  1. Energy and power system modelling
  2. Automatic dispatch and control of renewable energy/diesel plant
  3. Grid stabilization
  4. Load control and automated demand response
  5. Energy storage

So, as the title of this blog suggests, it is commendable that we are finally waking up to the importance of harnessing renewable energies with many cutting edge technologies including Solar energy from space, constant new inventions in solar cell and panel development, but let us not lose sight of actions to align new technology advancements by effectively implementing it in microgrids or remote based necessary applications and for this we may need to come down to earth to address energy needs of remote communities!

Learn more about ABB’s remote integration solutions


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About the author

Joshi Raghavendra

I am responsible for business development within ABB Power Generation, Southeast Asia, based in Singapore. I am passionate about alternative energy sources and strongly believe that renewable energy future has far more potential and flexibility in many applications than centralized energy generation.
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