A smart, reliable, and efficient power supply helps in the smooth functioning of smart cities. The use of IoT in renewable energy production will help meet the energy demands of these smart cities efficiently.
The applications of IoT in renewable energy production involve sensors that are attached to generation, transmission, and distribution equipment. These devices help companies to monitor and control the working of the equipment remotely in real time. This leads to reduced operational costs and lowers our dependence on the already limited fossil fuels. The use of renewable energy resources already provides a variety of benefits over conventional ones. The implementation of IoT will help us utilize these clean energy sources to a further extent.
Benefits of Using IoT in Renewable Energy Solutions
Efficiency proves to be a major hurdle in harnessing renewable energy. This is especially true for methods that depend on variable resources like wind and solar energy. A smart IoT solution enables the implementation of automated controls to improve efficiency with these methods of electricity production. With the help of these controls, energy from renewable resources can be harnessed with maximum efficiency. An IoT device can help detect the most favorable conditions for energy production. The equipment can be adjusted accordingly to generate maximum output. The major benefit of IoT devices is that they generate data in real time, which helps minimize wastage if any.
An excellent example of automation using IoT devices in renewable energy is their use for monitoring and efficient working of wind turbines. The direction of the wind turbine can be altered for gaining maximum efficiency by analyzing the data generated by IoT sensors. A similar application can be seen in solar power utilization. The direction of solar panels can be altered to be perpendicular to the energy source. This provides maximum utilization of solar energy. These changes can be done manually or automatically to maximize electricity production. With automated controls, the power plant can work more efficiently. This significantly improves power output, reduces operating costs, and also improves the safety standards.
The internet of things provides excellent tools for monitoring power consumption. Utility companies and electricity suppliers can get an unprecedented degree of control over their resources using IoT solutions. This, in turn, provides valuable insights to companies to make data-driven business decisions. Power distribution companies can determine and analyze users’ power consumption patterns using IoT-generated data. Utilities can balance the supply based on the demands of consumers. This eventually leads to companies to cut down on the wastage of electricity and save a lot of money. Utility companies can lower their input costs by employing IoT solutions in renewable energy power production. Businesses and the common man too can substantially cut down on monthly electricity bills. The Skanska USA office in the Empire State Building was one of the early adopters of IoT solutions in its premises. As a result, it has already reduced spending on electricity by 57%, amounting to USD 680,000 in savings for the office lease period of fifteen years.
The integration of IoT technology enables not only the inclusion of more systems into the grid, but it also improves overall grid management. By placing sensors at substations and along the distribution lines, companies can gather real-time power consumption data. Energy companies can use this data to make impactful decisions about voltage control, load switching, and network configuration. Sensors located on the grid can also help alert the operators about outages in real-time. The availability of real-time data allows workers to turn off power to damaged lines quickly. This prevents possible electrocution cases, wildfires, or other hazards.
IoT even allows for some of these decisions to become automated. An automated system proves more efficient than human-dependent one. In the case of an outage, smart switches can isolate the problem areas automatically. IoT devices can reroute the power to get the lights back on quickly. This results in saving precious time and human resources. Power usage data can also serve as the basis for load forecasting. IoT helps in managing overloads along transmission lines. They help ensure that all of the generation plants meet the requirements related to frequency and voltage control. This power consumption data can also help companies decide where to build new infrastructure or to make upgrades on existing ones.
The United Kingdom has been one of the early adopters of smart grid technology. With its Low Carbon Networks Fund and Electricity Network Innovation Competition projects, the governments have adopted smart grid and smart metering solutions. This system provides an observable, automated, and controllable electricity network.
The smart energy grid is expanding due to the rise in commercial and residential use. This increasingly scattered power system represents a major change for energy companies. In addition to managing their primary generators, they must also now manage a growing number of small generators located across the grid. The use of IoT helps monitor these vastly distributed smart grids easily. Sensors placed at multiple points can help in the monitoring of a large number of points in the production and transmission stages. This access to multiple points was not possible using traditional methods. With the increased control and huge chunk of data access because of a large number of sensors, the grid system can be managed effectively. In case of varying energy demands, the IoT sensors react to the changes autonomously. They can provide accurate information to operators to precisely manage demand.
Renewable energy implementation is not limited to utility companies but is being adopted at the household level as well. With the aid of IoT devices, citizens can generate ‘green energy’ in their backyards to meet their household needs. IoT infrastructure solutions help in leveraging renewable energy and make it efficient. With IoT, users can connect their solar panels, rainwater harvesters, smart roof, and windows in one system. Users can manage the working of their electrical devices using a desktop or mobile application. Customers can also install smart devices in their homes or in their office spaces that measure the power consumed by individual appliances and devices. They can use this information to identify waste and especially power-hungry appliances to save on their energy bills.
Other IoT devices, such as thermostats, can automatically optimize their operation according to their surroundings to reduce energy use. Residential customers can prove to be the most beneficial from these technologies, as the U.S. residential sector represents 37 percent of energy usage. The incorporation of IoT in renewable energy provides substantial opportunities for companies as well as general consumers.
Challenges Faced in Implementing IoT in Renewable Energy
Although the use of IoT in renewable energy generation provides a variety of benefits, it is not without its challenges and obstacles. One of the major issues faced in implementing IoT in renewable energy is the initial investment cost. Although their prices have dropped significantly over the recent years, the equipment for harnessing renewable energy still prove to be costly. Upgrading the grid with multiple IoT sensors along with data storage and monitoring devices adds to the primary investment costs involved in renewable energy-dependent processes. Going by the current trend, if prices fall substantially in the future, IoT enabled energy production devices can see adoption on a large scale.
Another challenge faced in utilizing IoT devices is that they are vulnerable to hacking. Since the devices are connected to a network, there is a possibility of a cyberattack if the network is not secured properly. This can lead to hazardous and unfavorable conditions to utility companies as well as for residents. A secure system must be adopted to thwart any potential attack on the grid.
Renewable energy sources are the future of electricity production. Renewable energies are expected to gain another 43% by 2022, according to the International Energy Agency. Many private players and governments are already investing in smart cities around the world and smart energy solutions will power these smart cities. Technologies like computer vision, AI, and smart energy provides for efficient working and managing the city’s assets. Providing clean energy to these smart cities proves to be an important factor. The United States, China, and India are the leading markets in the implementation of renewable energy power generation practices. These markets provide huge business opportunities for companies dealing with IoT services. The implementation of IoT in renewable energy production will play an important role in improving the dynamics of a clean energy source.