Addressing Intermittency Through Innovation

Wed, 02/24/2016 - 09:15

‘Intermittency’ is a word that strikes fear in the hearts of solar and wind developers alike, and it is seen as a major roadblock the industry is yet to fully solve. Paul Pauzé, President of Canadian-based solar power equipment manufacturer and distributor SunRise Power, explores ways to connect solar energy to the grid. “We believe that most of the advancements will come from new materials that will allow us to better capture the sun’s energy and to store this power more efficiently at night.” As soon as a company adds renewables to its operations, it will be able to save tremendous amounts of money. However, Pauzé admits that the company has to avoid frequency issues because solar energy is largely intermittent due to cloud movement. “It is important to have a technology that allows you to buffer these energy variations.”

Energy storage poses both a challenge and opportunity for the industry, mainly because common storage products are obsolete and extremely expensive. “PV technology has largely outpaced storage technology in terms of price and quality. Although this is quickly changing, there still exists a large gap that no one has yet found a way to bridge.” 

Pauzé believes that the tide has turned with Tesla Motors’ recent announcement of the release of its PowerWall, designed to eliminate this disconnect. “It will only be a matter of time until this becomes a viable solution for residential, commercial, and utility-scale generation, and I believe this will lead to a revolution in the power generation and transmission industry,” he predicts.

Once this revolution is on its way, Pauzé believes utilities are destined to eventually disappear, much like what is currently happening in the telecommunications market. Just like the evolution from hardwired home phone lines to cellphones, this change will be seen in a similar fashion in power generation and supply. “People will no longer look for utilities to obtain their energy supply, but rather generate the energy they need themselves.” SunRise Power has worked tirelessly with utilities, over 35 in Canada alone, in order to help them understand the evolution, and their requirements, in order to succeed.

Pauzé feels the missing link has been found with a product that can finally contribute to all the industries that operate off-grid and that want to bring renewables to their sites. “We have a Variable Speed Generator (VSG) called Innovus Power that essentially produces a constant and stable frequency regardless of load or renewables variances.” Pauzé compares its effect to windmills, since regardless of how fast the helix turns, it will still deliver a consistent amount of energy both in frequency and voltage. Basically, Innovus Power adopts the windmill systems and reengineers them for diesel gensets. “Its design enables the generator to run at the most efficient operating speed under any load. This is one of the first products in the renewable market that allows users power certainty and high penetration in their operations,” he adds.

Current grids are powered by fixed speed generators, and in some cases the energy comes from renewable sources like solar or wind. According to Pauzé, the challenge is to deeply penetrate these micro-grids while maintaining their stability and keeping energy costs low. “This VSG has the capacity to do exactly that. Its hybrid platform control systems prioritize the renewable portion of the power system and allow it to maintain energy stability without storage, reducing the costs considerably,” Pauzé boasts. One of the competitive advantages of VSG systems is that they are able to buffer power fluctuations and limit voltage during excess generation. This can represent substantial savings, and most importantly, maintain power certainty. “This solution works with all sources of renewable power, but currently we are primarily focusing on the integration of solar projects.”

For Pauzé any company, whether it is connected to the grid or not, stands to benefit from VSG technologies. “I believe that the companies that would benefit the most from this technology are those that depend on energy generated from fossil fuels.” Companies can generate the same amount of energy using 10-15% less diesel or natural gas. In addition, VSG can deliver 35% lower operation costs when compared to a fixed-speed generator. Innovus Power is perfect for micro-grids and unstable grids, and SunRise Power has discovered that the VSG can cover the needs of a range of companies, from hotel chains and manufacturing plants, to mines located in remote regions. “Companies are now recognizing the cost benefit of generating their own power instead of connecting to the grid.” With the disappearance of energy banks in the wake of the Energy Reform, this technology has arrived on the doorstep of intermittent energies at an opportune time. As batteries and energy storage technologies become cheaper, companies will seek to become energy independent, and if a tight rein is put on the issue of intermittency, renewables stand to conquer a slice of one of the most important markets.