Rnewables and Conventionals Together at Last

Hi everybody,

Here is the first part of my insights into the future of energy from an interview given at Hannover Messe for TheEnergyBlog.

The introducing part "The rapidly accelerating future of energy" you can find here.

I’m looking forward to your vision and ideas.

All the best,

The key issues in managing the relationship between conventional and renewable energy are efficiency and flexibility, according to Prof. Dr. Weinhold. “This relates to both conventional and renewable power plants and how we integrate both to meet power needs in the most efficiently seamless method possible,” he said. “We have more and more renewables with variable outputs coming online so we also need to make conventional inputs as flexible as possible. This goes hand in hand with the production of renewables. We will need to more accurately predict and compensate for variations in both production and demand,” said Dr. Weinhold.

He added that digitization is a key factor because it is what enables and controls the whole process. It is also what makes it possible to look into the Big Data aspects, which are critical for things like weather and load forecasting and then managing a given system accordingly. “The past was more about what has happened and why. The future is more about what will happen and why… and what we should do to anticipate it. This marks a massive shift in the way we manage energy,” he said.

“Efficiency and flexibility are also very much about materials and design - which incorporates 3D printing and technologies. For example, looking ahead we will be able to manufacture much more complex turbine blades where you have cooling channels built in. This was just not possible until now. 3D printing allows us to incorporate very fine structures that really push efficiency to new levels. And we are just seeing the start of what this new technology offers. This gives engineers a much higher degree of freedom when designing solutions.

“Digitization also makes research simulations much faster and more accurate. The effect of this is that we can test technologies faster and get them to market much quicker than ever before. It also adds up to greater security and stability because built-in sensors make it easier to monitor power plants in real time…. the vision is to have some kind of auto-pilot or self-managing system that automatically makes corrections and manages difficult situations. It also makes much more accurate prediction possible so you can fine-tune your power plant to, say, the prevailing weather conditions and anticipated power needs for the next day.

Digitization, or what some are calling "The Internet  of Everything" will be all around us. More and more decision-making will be done by machines, without any human intervention at all, or at the very least they will assist us in making much better decisions, faster,” said Dr. Weinhold.

“I am really hoping to see all these changes during the course of my professional life and, at the current rate of innovation, I believe there is a very good chance I will. I really want to be in the middle of the action,” he concluded.

In the next post in this series, Prof. Dr. Weinhold discusses the future of grids – “The glue that holds it all together.”

Photo Credit: Energy Integration/shutterstock