As we approach 2024, developers and innovators can’t help but wonder what new technology and trends will enter the renewable energy arena in the coming year. While electric vehicles and an increase of solar panels in various neighborhoods are signs of progress in the modern age, it takes careful forethought and significant effort to launch green energy generation and garner the public support needed to see them to the finish line.
Before we can consider the finish line that these trends will make a reality, it's important to ask just what those renewable power development trends are. From green hydrogen and various energy technologies to federal tax incentives, the renewable energy industry is rapidly evolving. Although we could cite numerous facets of advancement in sustainable energy, the three prongs that will prove most salient in the coming year include:
- Multi-use land
- AI tools
Considering these individually, as well as at their nexus points, will help us create long-lasting sites that meet energy efficiency goals more quickly and sustainably. Moreover, accounting for community needs, land concerns, and project timelines will become symbiotic goals in 2024 – and the years to come.
Let's consider these trends one at a time, then take a look at how they're likely to intersect.
1. Multi-Use Land
Land is, and always has been, at a premium. Look anywhere in the world throughout ancient and contemporary history, and you will see this reality expressed in the prevalence of tension and conflict.
Naturally, American developers and green-minded thinkers across the world want to avoid conflict wherever possible. One of the best ways to do this is to question conclusions that pose land as suitable for this or that. A nonbinary approach – that land can be suitable for this and that – will make better use of the acres and miles available to us.
Take agrivoltaics. This practice originated in Europe and is now a growing theme in the world of renewable power. Agrivoltaics is the use of land for solar photovoltaics (solar PV) and agriculture.
It's true that "Current and proposed solar land uses are a fairly minimal percentage of total county land use when compared to other land uses, typically less than 0.5 percent of most county's land footprint across the US," explains the Great Plains Institute.
However, that's still a lot of land solely dedicated to renewable energy production. Energy experts are currently working diligently to continue turning single-use tracts into multi-use land. The popularity of such endeavors is not in question. According to recent research, "The global agrivoltaics market was valued at $3.6 billion in 2021 and is projected to reach $9.3 billion by 2031, growing at a CAGR of 10.1% from 2022 to 2031."
Such efforts also maximize community sentiment, helping to keep farmland (always a win in rural communities), see a higher return on investment, and serve folks locally.
Other proponents for multi-use land recommend placing battery energy storage systems on solar and onshore wind sites rather than locating the two purposes separately, maximizing space and potential land productivity at the same time.
2. AI Tools
Artificial intelligence (AI) tools have been a hot-ticket conversation item well before the boom of the renewable energy sector in the last year. Now, AI is finally coming to the renewable energy market and has massive potential to increase productivity and accuracy.
Research indicates that AI is slated for nearly 38% annual growth between 2023 and 2030. Additionally, 40% of business leaders report that it enables better productivity, at the same time creating more than 130 million jobs and adding $15 trillion to the global economy by the same year.
And the rise of AI tools in all sectors is likely to continue creeping into renewable development as well. We can count on it to enable the successful completion of more projects on time and on budget. Tools such as GridBeyond and Transect's Solar Pulse are just the beginning.
For instance, Solar Pulse is an AI sentiment tool that allows users to gauge community support for a solar energy project before breaking ground. Sustainability means sustainability for all, and these tools consider all impacts developing these renewable energy sources may have on a community. Community disapproval can cause significant project delays via protests and legislative actions. No longer will developers, stakeholders, or EPCs have to go into land purchasing or leasing, wondering about the resistance they may face down the road.
Automation is increasing, greasing the wheels of everyday tasks to help developers protect their bottom line and help all of us reach our energy transition goals. The ability to compress timelines in the power sector is the key to decreasing our use of fossil fuels.
Indeed, studies show that the old ways just aren't getting it done. Workers must hunt for files manually 50% of the time. A full 85% of data at organizations is unstructured, while 90% of accidents are at least partially a result of human error. If we could streamline protocols and create centralized repositories of information, we'd solve a lot of these problems – and accomplish much more in the office and the field.
From devices that constantly measure natural gas emissions, tools from Emerson Electrics, and Transect's unique machine learning-based report generation capabilities, automation can save time and money and pave the way to a green future.
For example, hydropower, solar power, and wind power plants yield the potential to impact our environment. Automated environmental assessments via Transect inform a developer of all the environmental risks, permits, and regulations that apply to their site at the federal and state levels.
Where Trends Collide: The 2024 Trifecta
To reach America's clean energy goals, we will need more than a few wind turbines added to our electricity generation mix. It will take a combined effort of hydropower, offshore wind, solar projects, and more to succeed. Whether solar PV or biofuel, 2024 projects will follow the trend of supporting climate efforts.
By understanding how multi-use land, AI tools, and automation fit together, developers have a much better chance of striding confidently into 2024. Harnessing the power of these ideas and technologies allows developers to rapidly produce gigawatt upon gigawatt of electricity, aiding in our fight against climate change.
Smart tools are irreplaceable, which is where systems like Transect come in. Helping you anticipate concerns over environmental risks, required permits, and community sentiment will reduce friction, increase project success rates, and optimize development.
Here's to increased innovation and increased energy generation in 2024. Want to know how Transect can help you? Learn more today.