The renewable energy industry has seen substantial growth in recent years, but there is some hesitation from utilities to rely entirely on technologies such as solar and wind power for one important reason, reliability. Despite recent advances in renewable energy technology, wind and solar installations still satisfy less than five percent of global electricity demand. In many cases, renewables are still considered to be niche energy sources due to the lack of affordable and reliable technology. Furthermore, the storage of excess energy made when conditions are ideal can be difficult.
But finding the right mix of base load and renewable energy is not unachievable. In fact, we are seeing more and more as storage and generation technologies improve, that solar photovoltaics can act to strengthen the power grid in exciting ways that will help the energy industry respond to growing demand for better and cheaper electricity. Here are just a few ways we see solar power becoming a key player in the energy industry in years to come.
Threats to the Electrical Grid
While historically, the main threats to the power grid have come from natural disasters such as tornados, hurricanes, and winter storms, we now live in an age where cyber attacks could cause cascading energy disruptions like those seen in Ukraine in 2016. The US DOD reported in 2012 that of the roughly 200 cyber incidents across critical infrastructure systems, nearly half targeted the electrical grid. It’s worth noting that five years later, we are experiencing even more frequent and large scale cyber incidents than ever before. Not to be overlooked, physical attacks, such as the 2013 sniper attack on a Silicon Valley substation, are also of concern. The Silicon Valley incident cost $100 million and lasted almost 30 days.
All things considered, it’s clear that the power grid is particularly vulnerable to national security threats and the widespread loss of access to energy would severely disrupt residential and business environments. Think about the harm that could be done to transportation systems and hospitals if they lost access to electricity for a prolonged period. The damage could be catastrophic.
Added Resiliency and Security
The role that solar photovoltaics could play is important because as the technical community calls for added resiliency for the protection of the power grid through distributed energy sources and microgrids, solar power is a great solution.
Solar photovoltaic-powered microgrid systems are currently being used to fortify the power grids of domestic military bases as the energy independence adds resiliency and security to the grid, but it also helps support local communities. The US military has implemented such renewable energy plans, with 25 percent of energy production slated to be generated by renewable sources by 2025. While the US military has a renewable energy policy, the country still has a lot of ground to cover. But if we recognize that the capacity to shore up our national power grid is there, solar photovoltaics be more than just a benefit for our environment, but a technology needed to create energy resilience as a matter of national security.
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