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In the quest for sustainability, the next decade will see some major changes in the way that we consume energy. For decades, consumers have played a passive role. Energy generated in large coal, gas or nuclear power stations is fed into a network or grid to be distributed over high-tension power cables for use in homes and factories.
The infrastructure associated with delivering energy in this way is costly. Miles of above-ground power lines are connected to substations that convert the energy into a usable voltage, all of which impose massive installation and maintenance requirements. Despite this, for many years the conventional power grid has represented the most efficient method to provide power.
New technologies are changing the role of traditional energy infrastructure. With the global population predicted to approach 10 billion by the middle of the century, the appetite for energy will grow. At the same time, concerns over the environmental impact of fossil fuels have led to the search for new sources of power. Some of these new, alternative energy sources are now familiar. Solar energy has become a common sight, with huge fields given over to photo-voltaic cells, and wind farms are now an established part of the landscape in many parts of the world. These are examples of how alternative energy sources are forming part of the conventional power grid.
However, other advances in technology are enabling small-scale alternatives to the massive infrastructure of the past. Microgeneration is the term used to describe local, small-scale initiatives to create power for individual households. Known as distributed energy resources (DER), these are typically power plants of less than 10 megawatts capacity. Many DERs are using sources that reduce the dependence on fossil fuels, including wind, solar and the latest techniques such as biomass-fueled power plants.
However, the development of New Energy is not just a search for alternative energy sources. The most important aspect of New Energy will be how it is managed. For the first time, consumers will no longer play a passive role in their relationship with energy production. Instead, each home or factory will be equipped to manage its own energy needs. This will take the form of a sophisticated combination of local power sources with a connection to the traditional grid. The goal is to supplement or even replace entirely the need for energy taken from the grid. This will reduce dependence on conventional fossil fuels. It will also improve energy security by reducing the consumer’s vulnerability in the event of a disruption to the power supply caused by natural disasters or other major events.
While solar and wind are attractive sources of energy, neither provide guaranteed performance. The wind does not always blow, and in most parts of the world, the sun does not always shine. This has led to the development of battery storage solutions for the home, which will change forever how energy is managed. Many consumers are already benefiting from the latest photovoltaic cells that can be installed on their property. At times of high production, the ability to generate energy will overtake local demand, allowing the consumer to sell energy back to the grid. However, the development of high-capacity battery storage will allow the consumer to store the energy created on their own premises for later use.
There is another element to the energy storage concept that will become more common during this decade – electric vehicles. Manufacturers and governments around the world have made a commitment to electric vehicles. Normally, we think of these electric vehicles as consumers of energy. Electric vehicles are typically connected to the home in order to charge them, ready to be driven away. However, they can play a more dynamic role in the management of energy, as they represent a considerable energy storage reserve that can be used to power the home.
The concept of New Energy sees a home as an integrated solution. Alongside a connection to the traditional power grid, the home has the means to generate and store its own energy and can even benefit from the latest advances in electric vehicle technology. The consumer will have total control over how this complex system Is managed.
However, the consumer will not want to become an expert in the management of energy, the integration of AC and DC power or the generation of electricity. Instead, the consumer will expect seamless integration of all power sources. Critical to this infrastructure will be the inverter which will allow the direct current (DC) power from solar energy and battery storage to be converted to the alternating current (AC) power that is typically used by household appliances.
Components for Home Solutions
Inverters will need a range of relays, contactors and pre-charge resistors. The T9V series of power relays from TE Connectivityis an ideal solution for inverter applications. Heavy-duty power contactors such as the IHV200 series will be paired with pre-charge resistors, such as the HSC300 family .
Providing the connections for power requires a range of solutions. For photovoltaic applications, the popular SOLARLOK seriesprovide an industry-standard interface with sealing for use in exposed installations. For higher circuit counts, installers can find solutions in the Intercontec series or even the HDC family for high performance in harsh environments.
For printed circuit board applications in sheltered environments, the Dynamic 5000 seriesprovide power connections up to 45 Amps at 630 Volts, while many customers turn to the ever-popular AMPModu family for board-to-wire solutions.
The development of New Energy is more than just the search for alternative energy sources. While the employment of renewable energy will go a long way to create a culture of sustainability in the future, the key will be how energy is managed. Creating the infrastructure to power the home of the future will require the expertise needed to integrate a wide array of components. By partnering with TE Connectivity, RS Components can provide the support you need to create sustainable solutions for the homes of the future.