Experts predict that we can expect more innovation to happen in the energy sector over the next 20 years than has occurred since the time of Thomas Edison. Energy and utility companies are facing increasing demands to minimize their carbon footprint, increase supply and meet increasing demands for more reliable power. At the same time, there are shifting business and consumer preferences, requiring energy companies to develop new, proactive solutions.
The global shift toward renewable energy sources, including solar, hydro, geothermal, and wind are growing in importance as we move our new global climate targets while balancing demand. At the same time, the energy sector needs new systems to accommodate a new bi-directional energy flow as consumers are now integrating with the smart grid and creating their own energy, with solar panels and sending it back to the grid through net metering.
Complex distribution, optimizing load balancing, billing, and delivery challenges combined with a new wave of customers who are demanding more control over how their energy is produced and supplied require a transformation of innovative hardware, software, and systems. Yet, 82% of power and utility companies globally are not ready for market transformation.
How the Cloud Unlocks Solutions
Virtualization is key. Energy companies are discovering that real sustainability within the energy sector requires cloud solutions that allow them to move from fixed conventional generation to generation from renewable sources that fluctuate, such as wind and solar. At the same time, energy companies must account for consumers who are now producing their own energy and sending it back to the grid. These are dramatic changes in energy generation that demands virtual access to software and tools. More importantly, there are more profound environmental advantages to the cloud, especially for energy companies. Smart grids, microgrids, local generation, and local storage options require that data is instantly captured and accessible as customers become more willing to embrace distributed generation. Cloud Computing brings Agility
The critical imperative is to be agile so that energy companies can pivot and develop new solutions quickly. Cloud-based solutions give energy companies decentralized access to data that can be accessed and analyzed anytime, from anywhere in the world. For example, the cloud can unlock data monitoring insights to track batteries, wells, solar and wind energy stations to help forecast supply and demand to ensure enough power is available for peak energy times. During power outages, natural disasters, and other emergencies, cloud-based services allow utilities to give their customers updates and quick data recovery. While 20% of cloud users claim disaster recovery in four hours or less, only 9% of non-cloud users could claim the same.
Without investing in a complex hardware and software infrastructure, a cloud solution gives energy companies access to resilient solutions with mighty processing power to handle these innovations and shifts in demand.
The Cloud in Action: SSE Renewables
SSE Renewables, which owns the largest offshore wind development pipeline in the UK and Ireland, operates the Beatrice Offshore Windfarm, around 200 miles from the Isle of May. SSE is using a Microsoft-based cloud solution to enhance the environmental protection of its sustainable energy initiatives.
“The impact of our hydro and wind farm operations and our transmission and distribution networks must be actively managed in real-time, creating a technological opportunity for cloud technology to help protect and enhance existing wildlife habitats as we move into a world where we must rely on nature for renewable energy generation,” Rachel McEwen, SSE’s Chief Sustainability Officer, said.
SSE wants to use nature to create renewable energy with minimal disruption to the surrounding ecosystem. SSE uses cloud-based technology to monitor and track the well-being of puffins who are particularly attracted to the Isle of May.
Spotting, tagging, and counting puffins is critical to monitor the environmental impact, but the process is also complex and invasive to the birds. Traditionally, rangers sit for hours, marking down activity, burrowing their hands into nests, and feeling for the puffins and their egg. (Puffins only lay one egg per year.) SSE installed cameras in this area to collect video, sending real-time footage to the cloud using a Microsoft-based cloud solution where it is structured sent then into Microsoft AI technology, where numerous scientists can access it.
The cloud technology allows SSE to monitor the Puffins more accurately and efficiently and less invasively. This data can help us modify and adjust our renewable energy projects in the future.
Clare Barclay, Chief Executive Officer at Microsoft UK, said: “The innovative puffin monitoring project on the Isle of May demonstrates the impact technology can have on advancing sustainability and is just one initial example of how we are collaborating with SSE to shape a more sustainable future.”
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