Have you heard of virtual power? It is a new technology that aims to combat the challenges of renewable energy such as wind and the sun. We all know how unpredictable the weather can be, so virtual power could come in very handy where conditions aren’t the best.
Talking to CNN Business, Newcastle University’s Phil Taylor, an energy systems professor, reiterated the need for a way in which to control renewable energy.
If the world can’t reliably control it, we’ll have to rely on unrenewable sources such as fossil fuel, but what happens when they are finally depleted, even if not in the near future?
All the same, Taylor admits that it is difficult to control weather-dependent sources of energy even though compared to other sources, these are the cleanest energy sources around.
To try and supplement fluctuations brought about by changes in weather, some power plants chose to go with coal, but don’t we all know that burning coal has a negative impact on climate?
How It Is Done
To avoid contributing to the unending climate crisis, some power plants have chosen to give virtual power a try, designing the technology so as to make it work conventionally. The big question, however, is exactly how they do it.
According to CNN Business, engineers have designed an ingenious method to make this all work. They combine contrasting sources of renewable energy, therefore creating a pool of resources that provides sufficient energy. Not getting it yet? Let’s look at an example.
Such a power plant could be connected to at least ten wind farms, all located in far and wide geographical locations. Whenever one or several of farms are providing little to no energy due to lack of wind, the rest offset this deficit.
It doesn’t stop at that, because the power plant will have energy storage facilities such as batteries which are charged by the energy generated by the wind farms. In the event that all locations will have no wind, the charged batteries will take over, supplying the required energy.
Professor Taylor says that mastering such technology will go a long way into transforming virtual plants into your average power plant.
Statkraft AS, a company owned by the Norwegian state, is one of the power plants that have mastered everything to do with virtual energy. Since 2011, Statkraft has led its European peers where energy is concerned.
The international company is the continent’s largest producer of renewable energy. Needless to say, it operates in a number of European countries. The company’s plant in Germany, in theory, could power up to five million homes, thanks to its more than 12,000 MW capacity.
To achieve this feat, the plant has is connected to over 1,500 hydropower, solar, and wind plants all across Europe, and definitely has sufficient storage facilities for such a huge amount of energy.
With the help of Artificial Intelligence, the company is able to control their demand and supply curve, supplying the necessary energy immediately it is needed. As CNN Business puts it, Statkraft supplies energy in real time.
All the same, Taylor says that the one weakness that such companies have is their vulnerability to cybercrimes. As you can see, they are heavily reliant on software, and if hacked, this could spell doom for the power grid.