From Smart Renewable Energy to The smarter E

In this ongoing investigation, pv magazine looks at the latest developments across the world of energy, from national grid distribution to end user consumption, and examines the innovations that will make the biggest contribution to the development of a smarter energy system with renewable generation at its core.

These new developments are evident in the solutions on show at Intersolar and EES Europe, as well as at Intersolar North America. So it is natural to begin by speaking with Markus Elsässer, CEO of the show’s organizer Solar Promotion. His interview gives us some insight into the shift that the energy industry is currently undergoing, and Solar Promotion’s response in creating new platforms for intelligent energy solutions under the umbrella of The smarter E.

The energy industry has always been a place for innovation, and it can seem like different technologies are pulling the system in different directions all at once. Examining links between the activities of individual companies, and how they fit together, gives us an idea of what this smart energy system could look like, as electric vehicles, access to reams of data, and electric heating and start to converge on each other.

A key driver behind the need for the smart energy solutions is the intermittency in generation that is inherent to weather-reliant wind and solar. battery storage, hydrogen production and demand response guidelines are the often touted solutions to this. Less explored, however, is combining the two technologies. A conference held at Intersolar Europe this year revealed that wind and PV have already been combined in several projects worldwide, and that their generation profiles make an excellent fit for each other.

Different technologies working together has emerged as a running theme in the development of smart energy system, and one that is being examined in detail by scientists at Germany’s Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. Their project, Energy Lab 2.0, aims to put together a scaled down model of an energy system, where a 1 MW PV plant is complemented by lithium ion and other storage technologies, along with power to gas and power to fuel conversion technologies.

Blockchain is another of the buzzwords often heard in the context of smart energy, and it has strong potential to remove much of the complexity involved in the sale of electricity from multiple sources, creating a new type of smart electricity market. German company StromDAO was one of the first to realize this potential, and now offers electricity tariffs based on its free to access blockchain.

While investigating smart renewable solutions, pv magazine has come across a wealth of companies working on solutions big and small, all with the potential to add something new to the world of energy. Here you’ll find a few of our favorites, picked out from the companies exhbiting under the banner of ‘Smart Renewable Energy’ at 2017’s Intersolar Trade Shows on both sides of the Atlantic.

While it is still early days for many of the technologies discussed in this feature, the potential of, and the need for, storage solutions to accompany solar has been well known for a while, and seems finally to be taking off. A new report from GTM Research shows  enormous growth in the U.S. market for solar+storage, and outlines its potential to form the basis of the future energy system.