Innovation in any economy is the engine of growth. When an economy is bombarded with creative and innovative solutions to hone economic development, a transformation takes place. Same is the case in the renewable energy sector because if people come up with innovative alternatives, only then could the climate change problem be dealt globally and hence, reducing the need for non-renewables. Renewables are becoming the favorable option for many countries in their transition towards a secure, cost-effective and environmentally sustainable energy supply. Wind and solar technologies are highly cost-effective among many and there’s widespread adoption of these technologies across multiple countries. The wind power density is attractive especially in summer season along the Red Sea coast and in the southeast region. As an oil-rich country, Saudi Arabia would be better off exporting its oil instead of burning it for domestic power generation. Saudi Arabia’s northeast, central and western regions have the potential of delivering high wind speeds around 8.0 m/s.
Innovations to facilitate Variable Renewable Energy Integration
Variable Renewable Energy (VRE) in its simplest sense is generated from an uncontrollable source of renewables like wind and solar power from the sun. VREs has a fluctuating nature because electricity generation is dependent upon the availability of the renewables, sunlight, and wind. It demonstrates the challenge of supply & demand in power generation and hence to combat this problem, more flexible and integrated power systems are needed to maximize the value of low-cost VRE (i.e. solar and wind). Innovation is focused on fostering the development and deployment of solutions that increase the system flexibility needed to integrate high shares of solar and wind power. Emerging innovations are centered around four key dimensions in the power sector:
Enabling Technologies: Such technologies are used that facilitate the role of renewable energy integration.
Business Models: Innovative business models are developed to foster new services and enhance the system’s flexibility, further incentivizing integration of renewable energy technologies.
Market Design: Development of new market structures and changes in the regulatory framework required to encourage flexibility in a renewable-based power energy system, encouraging growth for new business opportunities.
System Operation: Innovative ways of operating the electricity system, allowing the integration of higher shares of variable renewable power generation.
Each of these four dimensions is accompanied by innovative briefs to help readers assess the benefits, risks, and suitability of each innovation for any specific context.
Solutions for a Renewable-Powered Future
The synergy of innovations across four key dimensions in the solutions of VRE integration results in systematic innovation. Flexibility solutions result from combining innovations across the power sector. These flexibility solutions include high solar and wind share, increased system flexibility and reduced total system cost. Without a proper business model, innovations in technologies do not have a real impact. Also, new business opportunities coming in need to be aligned with the business model of a company with value-added monetization. Flexibility solutions could be integrated into multiple areas including supply & demand-side, grid systems, and the storage facilities. Higher the flexibility solution, more would be the storage and electricity transmission for a better power system in the future. Enabling technologies such as the Internet of things (IoT), artiﬁcial intelligence and big data, if used properly would reduce the uncertainty in VRE generation. Such technologies could be used for advanced weather forecasting purpose. Artificial intelligence can improve the renewable energy generation forecast from 88% to 94%. It can also improve VRE integration by allowing operational data to be provided directly to operators.
To sum up, if innovative yet modern and intelligent technologies such as IoT, machine learning and artificial intelligence combined are integrated with VRE’s, then a better weather forecast could be made featuring flexibility and scalability in the electricity production via renewable-powered solutions.