At ARTÉMIA, we have partnered closely with clean-tech as well as utility companies over the years, and as a result we like to keep an eye on current energy generation trends. 2017 is shaping up to be a busy year, both for clean energy and the fossil fuel industry. Prices for solar and wind are continuing to drop while grid utility rates rise. New trends in the Internet of Things will continue to offer economic solutions to utility maintenance and operations, and traditional utilities will be teaming up with renewables to offer greener sources of energy.
As Solar and Wind Prices Continue to Drop, Corporations Take Notice
The 2016 market trend of dropping solar and wind technology costs and increasing utility rates will continue this year, making the adoption of solar and wind technology more appealing to many companies. In fact, for the first time last year, the solar industry in the U.S. comprised the majority of new power generation, and corporate contracts for wind energy overtook the demand for traditional utilities.
In early March, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) released a report stating that wind energy capacity will continue a steady rise, from where it was at the end of 2016—81 gigawatts (GW) to 95 GW by the end of 2018. Solar energy will continue to be the fastest growing renewable energy source and will comprise 1.4% of all utility-scale electricity generation by 2018. The EIA also predicts a continued rise in electricity rates.
This year, Google plans to power 100 percent of its entire worldwide operations by renewable energy. This means 2.6 GW of wind and solar power, comprising an approximately $3.5 billion investment. And 71 of the Fortune 100 companies have committed to goals of renewable or sustainable energy targets. While most purchases were by major corporations, other businesses are becoming more likely to consider the use of renewable energy as the costs of wind, solar, and fuel cells become equal to or even drop lower than the cost of fossil-based sources.
Technology, Utilities and the Internet of Things (IoT)
It’s no secret that technology is aiding the sustainable effort in utilities and other markets. From smart grid technologies, electric grid infrastructure, and data analytics, the IoT, in particular is bringing rapid changes.
Because IoT focuses on service, it allows faster communications, security for connected devices, location tracking, bilateral communications and green operations. Electric grid utilities have some of the most to gain from IoT. According to Electric Light and Power, “distribution grid operation can be maximized, and real-time information can reduce the capacity for intermittency issues (from solar resources) to cause disruption or safety problems…thereby alleviating utility constraint on peak load days without having to shift to extremely costly ‘peaker’ generation plants”.
By alleviating system strain, monitoring utilities becomes much more streamline and efficient, which can lower operation costs and improves energy supply management. Electric Light and Power stipulates that “IoT technolgoies will be the foundation for an even smarter smart grid, one that can support the transactive energy market that is already beginning to take shape.”
Smart energy grids aren’t the only strides that IoT is making in utilities, though. There’s also a lot of movement within smart water as well. An estimated 2.1 trillion gallons of clean, treated water is lost each year to leaks in our infrastructure. This demonstrates an incredible need for more effective and accurate water management tools.
IoT technologies are aiding in abetting some of the new advancements. For example, in 2015 AT&T, IBM and Mueller Water Products launched a pilot project in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Atlanta with smart pipes that “listen” for water leaks in the city’s underground pipe systems. The sensors prompted water saving by relieving water pressure in pipes, as well as live leak detection, which facilitated rapid repair. Furthermore, according to Forbes, IoT technology offers a more cost effective solution to addressing water loss than rebuilding the country’s entire water infrastructure.
Traditional Utilities Team Up with Renewables
It seems that traditional utilities are adopting the idea of joining forces with clean energy. In Wyoming, a local utility provider named Black Hills Energy collaborated with software giant Microsoft to form a wind energy deal to provide reliable energy without forcing any of the costs onto the consumers.
Together, the two parties structured a long-term agreement where Microsoft purchased 59 megawatts of renewable energy certificates from two wind projects that are adjacent to its datacenter in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The total output of the two Wyoming wind projects and a third wind project contract in Kansas produce sufficient energy to cover the annual requirements of its Wyoming datacenter.
Microsoft also collaborated with Black Hills Energy to create a new tariff, eligible to certain Black Hills Energy customers, that allows it to use the Cheyenne datacenter’s backup generators. This has allowed Black Hills Energy to save money as it no longer needs to build a new power plant.
Because of the above-mentioned cost-efficiencies available to many companies in implementing solar energy, traditional utilities are under increasing pressure to rapidly adapt, or see the loss of important corporate clients. Last year, MGM Resorts International made a $86.9 million payment for the right to switch from Nevada Energy to more renewable sources, including its own solar technology. More deals like the one between Microsoft and Black Hills Energy will allow for a faster adoption rate for renewable energy sources among corporations and ultimately benefit consumers with lower costs.
It is shaping up to be an exciting year for sustainable advances in utilities, and we look forward to more news to come. If you would like to discuss how ARTÉMIA, can help guide you through all the upcoming changes, please reach out to us.