Solar-powering the New Grid

While there remains considerable debate within the energy industry, skeptics on all sides of the supply-and-demand discussion can agree one thing: Since they are entirely fueled by carbon-based energy, the world’s power grids are obsolete and in desperate need of replacement.

But is this true? While existing power infrastructures are grossly insufficient for meeting the world’s growing energy needs, this is for a host of other reasons.

First is the simple fact that today’s power grids are a far cry from the original grids developed in the late 1880s.

It may not be happening overnight, but energy companies are increasingly adding solar, wind and other renewable sources to their grids to increase reliability, reduce cost and ensure long-term system integrity. What started as a slow turn to renewables is quickly becoming a profitable and undeniable business strategy.

A primary reason for this shift is consumer expectation. From the ubiquity of residential solar panels prompted by government incentives, to the proliferation of large-scale solar and wind farms, evidence of the growth of renewables is everywhere. Customers expect their utility companies to rely on more than just carbon-based energy to power their grids – and this expectation goes a long way toward shaping reality.

Beyond the power grids themselves, the simple nature of renewable power is contributing to the grids’ rapid obsolescence. Power is generated when the sun shines and the wind blows; however, suppliers have no way of regulating the rate at which that energy is created. 

More than traditional carbon sources, renewable energy requires power-and-supply equilibrium if it is to qualify as a long-term source. Fluence, a joint venture between AES and Siemens, is looking to fill the storage gap; however, the technology is still too young to allow power providers to store meaningful amounts of solar and wind energy. 

Additionally, companies like Exigen and The Faraday Grid are looking to solve this rapid variability problem by creating alternate grids that allow for more efficient use of renewable energy. Beyond making solar and wind power a much higher percentage of the overall energy mix, these advanced infrastructures result in lower power costs, greater stability and resilience to cyber-attack.  

Nowhere is the shift from traditional to renewable grid power more apparent than in Mississippi. A decade ago, the Magnolia State had no solar farms. Now, it’s a leader in solar energy – and in the considerable percentage of the power grid fueled by renewable energy. While state tax credits have helped spur development, much of the success is due to local-provider willingness to consider alternatives to the traditional, carbon-based power grid.

Fortunately, corporate resistance to energy diversification is fading. Consumers want at least the option of solar and other renewables – and this market demand, combined with technology advances, is making it happen.

The result is something that CSDR International has been championing for years: A cleaner, more abundant and reliable energy future all of us.

Leslie Gomez