Clean Energy and Smart Grids: Where Are We Now?

smart grid. Credit: Pexels, decades, scientists have been warning us about global warming and the types of risks we face if we don’t change the way we treat the planet. Still, there are many skeptics who choose to chime in and spark a global warming debate. However, scientists continue to warn the public about global warming, backed with research and horrifying projections that the Earth could heat up to 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit, even if we make drastic changes, and 10 degrees if we don’t.

Clearly, action is necessary. There are many sources of clean energy available — solar, wind, hydro — and while they each have their positive aspects, not all of them can compete with the energy sources we currently use. However, smart grids can make it possible to combine multiple types of renewable energy sources, and create a more powerful and comprehensive system. So where are we now with sustainable energy and smart grids?

Sustainable Energy Sources

It can be difficult to compare different energy sources, as they all fit into the energy and sustainability schemes differently. However, one way to do so is to break down the pros and cons of each type of energy source. Currently, we depend mainly on nonrenewable sources to provide us with energy, including petroleum, natural gas, and coal. These three types of energy all emit pollutants when burned, are nonrenewable resources, and can cause environmental damage.

However, sustainable and environment-friendly sources of energy are quickly gaining popularity. Solar, wind, and hydro power all provide virtually clean energy. Switching to these sustainable sources of energy is inevitable and can steer the fate of our planet to a more positive future, but it’s not a clear-cut process. Each type of power has its own downsides. For example, windmills can be lethal to birds that fly into the turbines, and hydro power requires dams to be built that can damage aquatic ecosystems.

Another issue with these energy sources is that they aren’t available everywhere, and they aren’t as reliable as other sources. Wind turbines, for example, naturally have to be placed in areas with a lot of wind. Solar panels won’t be efficient in places that don’t have enough sunlight to harvest power. With the advancement of technology, however, scientists and engineers are coming up with ways to move past these obstacles.

The Value of Smart Grids

One major way to overcome the obstacles and shortcomings of sustainable energy sources is with smart grids. Smart grids aim to support and combine the energy from hydro, wind, and solar energy sources to provide a more comprehensive source of energy. Smart grids also work to make sure the energy is used in a balanced way to optimize its use and lower costs for users.

According to the University of California Riverside (UCR), the future of smart grids is very bright. By 2020, the smart grid market is projected to reach $400 billion, and could save over $100 billion dollars over the next 20 years. UCR also lists the following benefits:

  • Overhaul aging equipment
  • Bring the energy world up to speed
  • Decrease chances of burnouts, blackouts, and surges
  • Reduce the cost of energy production and consumption
  • Will make renewable energy feasible
  • Equip the grid to meet market demands
  • Give consumers more control over their power bills
  • Facilitate broad car charging systems

As the industry continues to develop and grow, more benefits will be added and smart grids will become more available to the public. There are many reasons to hope that there will be future progress in terms of renewable energy, largely thanks to smart grids. Hopefully, paired with other sustainable practices, such as building green and cleaner drilling, the future of the planet can be transformed into a more positive one.