Why stability will be built on locally generated power at 100MW+ scale
The energy landscape is changing and with it so are industry strategies to securing power
As global energy use becomes genuinely electrified over the next 20 years, reliance on and demand for local low or no carbon electricity across industry is about to surge.
The change is likely to be seismic.
Just as demand is growing, electricity production will move from being mostly generated using fossil fuels to renewables predominantly through more wind, solar, and hydro power generation. It will also become more dependent on local generation and microgrids.
Global Energy Transformation – A roadmap to 2050. https://www.irena.org/-/media/Files/IRENA/Agency/Publication/2018/Apr/IRENA_Report_GET_2018.pdf
The question then becomes how to generate power locally at the scale required?
How, for example can a power intensive site such as a data centre generate 100MW of off grid reliable power?
For data centres and other energy intensive sectors it cannot be that the final energy map will be one that only depends on non-heat producing sources such as wind, solar and hydro.
Industrial energy intensive loads will also depend on the reliable electricity directly produced from the local combustion of low carbon liquid fuels, liquid natural gas, and ultimately clean hydrogen.
According to a 2020 study titled ‘Energy Intensive Industries, Challenges and Opportunities in Energy Transition’, produced for the European Parliament, many of the technologies that will guide Europe’s economy to carbon neutrality by 2050 exist today and are mostly mature.
The question then becomes how and where is this power going to be produced?
It appears likely that the big changes in the power generation mix will include big changes in baseload through the use of large engines, along with conditioning and stabilisation delivered on microgrid infrastructure.
The key will be finding the best mix of technologies, renewables, fuels, location and independence from and interaction with changing distribution grids in order to satisfy specific ‘loads’.
Already this is changing how industry thinks about power. At the generation level this all points to a radically changing mix of options.
Traditionally 100% of power capacity was secured from the grid. This is no longer viable.
In future many industries will self-generate tens of MWs of their own power and provide their own redundancy through multiple large power generating engines located close to the where the electricity is needed.
When one engine is offline its load will be taken up by another.
This local power generation will also disrupt the supply side of the electricity market as energy users become providers.
A big step, not a giant leap
That the world needs to find a path to clean energy by 2050 is in no doubt.
But it would be naïve to think that we are about to experience a single great technological leap forward to a global power system that delivers low cost, carbon free electricity wherever and whenever it is needed.
There will be many steps on the transition journey. One step to a new electrification mix will certainly require large, local power generation of 10MW-100W.
This article first appeared on Datacenterdynamics