By Giovanni Tula
Giovanni Tula started his speech by introducing the focus of his presentation: circular projects linked to the energy world.
The goal is to understand the status of renewable energies and their dissemination at the global level, by considering the 4 macro areas: storage, efficiency,
The starting point is the comparison of the estimates regarding the dissemination of the renewable energies developed by the World Energy Agency in 2008 and 2017.
As you can see from the image above, the estimates have more than doubled, the reason is that in 2017, with circa 13 years to spare, the estimate of the 2030 has already been reached, now the expectancy is to reach 4.718 GW installed in 2030.
Actually, the estimates recently made could be underestimated because the renewable energies are becoming highly competitive thank to a strong reduction of the cost of production.
For example, in the solar energy field, there has been a
Among the enabling elements of this revolution there is the “storage theme”. The batteries are essential to this evolution per 3 functions:
- Stabilization of the electricity grid
- Reduction of the imbalances on the generation side
- Offer of the energy in time of need on the consumer side
The evolution of the lithium batteries in the last years has been important such that it has gone from some MW of power and storage of some minutes to a power of hundreds MW that can last for hours.
The one that is impossible to do through batteries is the energy shifting, namely, to move big quantities of energy for months or moments capable of covering a peak of demand.
Additional interesting technologies for energy storage are flow batteries, batteries that decouple the power of the battery from its ability to storage, or the storage at liquid air, or other forms of storage that exploit the potential energy and the force of gravity, by raising blocs of materials on a tower when excess energy is produced and by dropping those materials at the time when there is the necessity to generate electric energy.
Another option for the storage of energy that allows at the same time to use the existing resources is the one that uses electric cars as batteries. If we consider the displacement that is occurring towards the electric cars, in few years we will have thousands of electric cars that when they are not used to move people and items, they could be used to provide stability at the network by acquiring and providing energy.
As regards the second area, the efficiency, it is important to point out the improvement of efficiency of the photovoltaic panels production.
This improvement has been driven by the industrial sector, in contrast to the ‘70s, where the evolutions was driven only by the research world. The evolution is so strong that in few years we can reach an efficiency equal to 30%.
The increase of the efficiency is important because one of the most critical elements for the solar energy is the usage of the soil. The solar energy need space that is not always available, for this reason we need to think at synergic uses of the soil, where photovoltaic panels coexist with agricultural crops or with the floating photovoltaic (solar panels installed on water such as artificial lakes or dams).
However, the research on materials would be fundamental to get over the silicon and theorical maximum efficiency, also thanks to the different possibilities from the new synthetic materials, such as the perovskites.
Automation and digitalization
The other areas of interests in the renewable field are automation and digitalization. The first example is a mean that is automatically driven during the construction phase, it makes more efficient the movement of soil thanks to the calculation algorithm, in this way the mean can do the same actions by using from 30% to 50% less resources.
Another element is the all IoT technology e drones, they can be used to verify the status of the panels through thermal imagers, and if necessary, in the future, they could require the intervention of robots that could replace the damaged panels.
Another important energetic resource is the wind power. Both the wind and solar energy wre developed in last years in specific sectors, but in the future the high-altitude wind power could become important. Between 500 and 1.000 meters altitude, it is possible to find a predictable wind, technologies that can exploit this energy are being developed.
As regards the wind, the activity that will be relevant in the next year is the replacement of the existing implants when they are not efficient anymore. The replacement may cover the whole implant or only the blades.
An important issue for the circularity is the composition of the blades, they, often, are made of fiberglass. It is possible to think about blades constructible directly on the site with innovative fabrics or 3D prints, by eliminating the transport issues.
As regard the repowering, it could exist the possibility to disassemble the blade on the site and re-enter it in a extruder robot, this robot will mix the materials together with polymers and it will produce a new blade, bigger and more efficient.
The marine energy is the last point. Nowadays there is not a dominant technology yet in this field, but there are more than hundreds of technologies that are trying to exploit this kind of energy. The marine energy is interesting because is predictable, and it is present in all the latitudes and it could have a complementary role to the other renewable energies. A promising technology is the usage of electro-active polymer (EAP) to produce energy from the sea. It’s about a cpipe made of polymers that expands and compress thank to the waves, by generating new electric energy.