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Renewable energy and the Internet of Things

According to the World Economic Forum, the Internet of Things (IoT) which focuses on the extension of internet connectivity to everyday physical devices will be the driver of the fourth industrial revolution1.

The Internet of Things represents a new reality, the data collected from internet devices can be used to enhance efficiency, develop new services, fine-tune decision making, solve intricate issues and create innovative solutions. For the energy market, the IoT has brought a new insight, by including new capabilities to support a wide range of vertical markets, from industrial controls to data centres alike.

Furthermore, this translates to greater flexibility to accommodate more energy resources, better management of assets and operations, further improvement in reliability, as well as security and better customer service.

Introduction

IoT has the potential of solving the main problems associated with renewable energy such as intermittency, variability, energy wastage and storage. IoT enables objects, which are part of a larger distributed system to communicate effectively over the internet. Hence, renewable energy sources in different locations can interact through an energy cloud, to feed information to the electric grid, when there is an excess or shortfall in energy supply or demand. Examples of these applications include the Tesla Power wall and Electric Thermal Storage (ETS) devices.

The Tesla Power wall2 is a battery that provides energy by using solar power to store excess energy generated during the day. It acts as a buffer between the power grid and the home’s solar system; this smooths out the supply and demand of electricity from the house as a whole3.

The Steffes Corporation in Hawaii is currently experimenting with the use of ETS devices to gain energy efficiency. These ETS devices take advantage of off-peak electricity (charged at a lower rate since consumption occurs when demand on the electrical grid is low) to provide heat in buildings during peak hours4.

Benefits of IoT and Renewable Energy

• Smart Grids: In 2016, Deloitte5 published an article that analysed how IoT was poised to reshape the way utilities do business. In the article, the firm wrote that IoT would most likely transform the grid from ‘a one-way system where power flows from centralized generation stations to consumers, to a platform that can detect, accept and control decentralized consumption and production assets so that power and information can flow as needed, in multiple directions6.’



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