Emerging technologies for generating power
by Jennah Denney, Contributing Writer
The nation’s electric grid keeps moving toward increased use of renewable energy sources.
The ways electric cooperatives power communities have changed over time. These changes will continue as advantageous economic conditions and increasing technological innovation keep moving the nation’s electric grid toward increased use of renewable energy sources.
The electric grid’s efficacy and durability depend on several sources of power generation, and electric co-ops have invested in cutting-edge technologies to meet and predict consumer-members’ energy needs.
Cooperatives continuously monitor new technology, develop strategies for adapting to them, and share best practices with fellow co-ops to better serve their consumer-members.
Several revolutionary technologies for creating electricity are reshaping the future of power generation. Let’s take a look at a few that are currently on electric cooperatives’ radars.
Offshore wind farms provide many of the same benefits as land-based wind farms, including renewable energy production for domestic use and new employment opportunities. Offshore wind also provides environmental benefits, like no greenhouse gas emissions. And because the ocean provides more than enough space to install several turbines, offshore wind is positioned miles out at sea, barely visible from the land and away from sea routes and ecologically sensitive areas.
An offshore wind farm consists of several turbines dispersed across a vast area of ocean. Each is solidly attached to a foundation piece on the seafloor and has a tower that extends into the air, where the blades may take advantage of greater wind speeds.
BATTERY ENERGY STORAGE
Of course, renewable energy solutions have their challenges. We need electricity around the clock, yet we don’t have sunlight and wind 24 hours a day. This means we need greater investments in energy-storage projects to store the electricity created through renewable sources. Energy storage will play an important role in enabling the grid to be more flexible and resilient.
Energy storage is expected to expand significantly in 2023 following robust growth in 2022. Developers and power plant owners plan to increase utility-scale battery storage capacity in the U.S. nearly fourfold in the next three years, reaching 30 GW by the end of 2025, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Nuclear energy has been a source of power generation for a long time, constituting approximately 15% of the fuel mix for 661 electric co-ops in the U.S. In total, 93 commercial nuclear reactors are operational in 28 states.
As the nation and the world work toward new sources of always-available electricity, many in the industry are keeping an eye on the development of a new wave of nuclear power plants that may be on the horizon, known as small modular reactors, or SMRs.
SMRs that are currently being developed in the U.S. come in a variety of sizes, technological options, capabilities and deployment situations.
As our nation’s energy sources continue to shift, electric co-ops remain committed to exploring the best sources and technologies for their local communities and the consumer-members they serve.
Jennah Denney writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.