It is no secret that the call for green sources of energy is growing louder as climate concerns rise with each day. Among the warranted concerns for climate disasters and a need for immediate and real change, it is sometimes difficult to recognize the progress. As Greta Thurnburg said to the US Congress in 2019: “You must unite behind the science. You must take action. You must do the impossible. Because giving up can never ever be an option.” So how is the industry fairing? How are technologies developing? What can we expect to see from 2020?
Recently, The Guardian reported that tech giants such as Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft and Google (by a considerable lead) were the “world’s biggest buyers of renewable energy.” Adding that, the overall purchase of renewable energy from corporations had tripled in the last two years. Google’s involvement should come as no surprise considering its serious push for green energy in the last three years alone. In 2017 the giant announced it would use 100% green energy, utilizing wind and solar energy across the globe. In 2019 it increased its investment by a further 40% which equated to roughly $2 billion in clean energy. Sundar Pichai stating that it would “spur the construction of more than $2 billion in new energy infrastructure” in order to fuel new developments as the company matures.
As investments in sustainable energy grow, development of those technologies can be expected. Some technologies, more than others, will be more popular and easier to implement or develop, so which are due to have a growth spurt in 2020?
Marine Solar Panels and Offshore Wind
Whilst these are not new technologies, their rapid development and increasing affordability has warranted leaps of progression in the sector. In particular the rising installment of floating solar panels seems to be an efficient way of harvesting green energy. One of the age-old protests of wind and solar farms is its use of needed land and its “unattractive” blot on the environment. Like offshore wind-farms, floating Solar panels can make use of offshore space and utilize uninhibited sun. In 2019, China instated what is said to be the largest floating Solar panel installment in the world, totaling 70MW. Green Tech Media stated in 2019 that the “global floating solar demand is expected to grow by an average of 22 percent year-over-year from 2019 through 2024.”
Already with its roots down is Offshore wind, which as a fast growing and lucrative sector, has promising trajectories in the future. With one wind turbine able supply a year’s worth of energy for 1500 homes. It is no wonder that according to offshorewind.biz “Investment in offshore wind reached USD 29.9 billion in 2019, up 19% on 2018 and USD 2 billion more than in the previous record year of 2016.”
Whist not a stand-alone supplier of green energy, the development of AI has been a fundamental catalyst in quickly improving the technologies and uses of green energy. By data analysis AI has been able to advance the effectiveness of green energy by speeding up production, reducing waste, increase energy efficiency, storage and track trends. The development and use of such technology should make more green energy services more cost-effective.
Improvements in energy storage and reliability
One pressing concern in the production and utilization of sustainable energy, is how to store it. Some energy producers such as wind and solar are privy to changes in conditions (such as lack of wind and sun) whereby energy is not efficiently produced, if at all. Batteries are then needed to meet the demand of businesses and homes, who will need energy regardless of these factors. Batteries can “fill the gaps” in energy stream when wind and solar farms struggle to do so and maintain consistency when there are fluctuations in the supply. At the moment batteries are not sufficient enough to meet consumers demands, so a heavy push to develop these technologies is needed and expected to be seen in the near future.
Other technologies are allowing green energies to be accessible by more and more businesses and individuals. In order for renewable energies to take hold of the market, the market needs to easily and reliably utilize that energy. Block-chain technologies, Grid Parity and Distributed Energy Resources (DER’s) all aim to aid this. Block-chain technology will allow securer, smarter and easier trade of energy whether derived from individuals or businesses. For example, Individuals will be able to safely sell and exchange their excess energy to a nearby buyer. Grid parity aims to equalize the cost of green energies to other energy producers, making them more attractive to buyers. DER’s are decentralized community-produced forms of energy supply that can be more affordable and will allow individual producers of energy to sell electricity to the grid.