Companies & countries are getting behind renewables
Speaking to delegates at a medical technology conference last year, Ray Kurzweil predicted that solar power would become the dominant energy force in just over 10 years. He explained that while solar’s market share remained small, it reliably doubles every two years. Similar to the principles of Moore’s Law , this rate will only increase exponentially. Solar certainly seems to be the golden child of the clean energy movement, but it’s by no means the only option. Across the world, a surge of new projects has accelerated renewable adoption like never before. What new projects and developments are helping to build the renewable world, and how can businesses take advantage of the changing energy market?
The winds of change
Solar energy has made some huge advancements in the past few years. The next chapter in solar’s story is the installation of transparent solar cells. It’s claimed that this light harvesting solution could provide an additional 100GW of power, eventually supplying 40 per cent of energy demand in the US. Despite this, solar currently supplies a meagre two per cent of global energy. But when you consider the combined impact of alternative energy sources, it’s much harder to dismiss the rise of renewables. By rethinking the traditional wind farm, innovative companies have come up with entirely new concepts. One, for instance, is a floating wind farm off of the Scottish coast called ‘Hywind Scotland’. The farm was 15 years in the making, and consists of 5 turbines with the ability to power 20,000 homes. The project, by Norwegian energy company Statoil, is hoped to improve wind yields as well as placate the NIMBY (not in my backyard) movement that protests against turbine construction.
Another European company, Max Bögl Wind AG, has built the world’s tallest onshore wind turbine with a total height of 246.5m. As a general rule, the higher the turbine is, the better the yield. The construction was made possible by an innovative water battery that combines renewable power generation with a water reservoir. The battery acts as a short term storage solution by saving excess power and releasing it when needed. The farm, made up of four turbines, will begin supplying energy to the German power grid early next year. Unfortunately, it’s uncertain as to how these projects could affect marine life and birds. Wind turbine enthusiasts may face an environmental backlash if their farms noticeably impact the natural world. Another renewable option that actively makes use of natural materials is biofuel. Backed by companies like BP and pioneered by the Brazilian government, biofuels could offer a replacement for fossil fuels. In each different energy solution, teaming powerful players with large scale developments is a recipe for adoption – so how should businesses react?
How will the renewable revolution disrupt energy?
Riding the wave of renewable adoption is a daunting task, especially for companies that have invested in quite the opposite. Even so, big oil and gas providers are already disrupting themselves to offer clean as well as non-renewable energy options to their customers. Shell, for instance, has bought NewMotion, a major provider of electric vehicle charging ports in Europe. In fact, many notable advancements appear to be happening on the continent, and the rest of the world is certainly taking note. China, one of the world’s most polluted countries, is also making the transformation towards clean energy. The country has announced a $292b investment in clean energy by 2020, and expects renewables to supply around half of new – not overall – energy generation. In other words, the shift is happening right now. These pioneering developments are contributing to the creation of a clean energy culture which recognises the potential of renewables and enacts its practical application. This shift in mentalities is providing the chance for businesses to work with governments and influential corporations. It’s also creating work – China’s initiative alone is predicted to open up more than 13m jobs. Amongst excitement about future opportunities, it’s important to be realistic about the progression of renewable energy. Kurzweil and other optimists may well be right when they predict major changes in a matter of years, but the transition from fossil fuels won’t be easy. Again, though, this could benefit rising InfraTech startups who exist to help legacy companies adjust to the connected, digital age.
Renewable adoption needs to happen in order to create a sustainable future, and that’s a fact. Thanks to the efforts of big businesses and national governments, sceptics (yes, they still exist) are finally accepting that current energy systems have to change. Perhaps the biggest indicator of this transition is that China, the world’s largest energy market, has made a public commitment to fuel the renewable future. Clean energy sources aren’t just about saving the world, though – they are also a lucrative business opportunity. Ultimately, companies that recognise this now will profit from the shift to sustainability.
Will solar become the dominant energy force by 2027? Which other types of technology company will be instrumental in facilitating new energy infrastructures? Should global businesses prioritise the creation of a clean energy culture within their strategies? Share your thoughts and experiences.