Today’s energy model is dominated by hunting for various hydrocarbon energy sources to be used for generation. The future will see a transition from hunting (and generating) energy to gathering energy. There will be numerous impacts from this transition, it helps fight global warming, it will improve operational energy efficiencies and it will have both business and technological impacts beyond what is generally anticipated today.
A combination of increasingly-efficient and cost-effective energy harvesting and renewable energy sources will enable the wide-spread use of ambient energy sources across a wide range of applications ranging from milliWatts to MegaWatts. Local energy storage will play a key role in this evolution. The emergence of dispersed energy resources will provide energy when and where needed and will result in new paradigms for energy/power distribution architectures on all scales.
One result of embedded and dispersed energy sources will be to change the motivation for using energy storage devices such as batteries and super capacitors. For example, in the case of sensor and control networks that will be a ubiquitous part of the internet of things (IoT), those devices will not necessarily be the "prime" power sources. Instead, energy storage will be used to match the load profile of the local system or node to the energy gathering profile of the energy harvesting (EH) technology being employed.
A multiplicity of EH technologies will be commercially deployed. Initially, there will be conflict between the increasingly lower cost of energy storage (expected to drop by at least 2X in the next five years) and the cost of EH. But inexpensive batteries wl il have finite lives and will ultimately cost more than EH. As a result, in the longer-term the growing use of EH will significantly reduce battery market growth and will change the commercial dynamics of the battery market.
In addition, 2D and 3D printing will emerge as a viable method for making energy storage devices. This will complement the emerging use of 3D printing for power converters and sensor nodes discussed in yesterday's article in this series. For example, the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) has announced a new project to develop a novel printed energy harvesting device that is powered by near-field communication (NFC). The device will facilitate the wider adoption of NFC-enabled applications in consumer packaging, document and brand security, in addition to wireless sensor networks for defense, healthcare and medical devices.
The 18-month Innovate UK project titled ‘HaRFest’ is being led by PragmatIC Printing Ltd, a global leader in flexible integrated circuits, and involves CPI alongside the EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Large-Area Electronics, represented by its academic partners, the University of Cambridge and the Welsh Centre for Printing and Coating at Swansea University. HaRFest is expected to develop and scale up production of an EH device suitable for integration with sensors, displays and storage devices. The device will house a printed antenna alongside printed passive and active components including as array of tuning capacitors.
The potential for EH plus energy storage to disrupt utility-scale operations and business models is already appearing. On the last day of November, Sonnenbatterie announced the sonnenCommunity where members can generate their own power, store it and share surpluses online with friends or each other. The sonnenCommunity aims to completely replace traditional power companies and will soon be available to every household in Germany. sonnenCommunity is the first community of producers, consumers and storage operators who can supply each other with self-generated electricity.
sonnenCommunity members are independent of the established electricity providers. Members have significantly lower energy costs thanks to the efficiently controlled, decentralized self-supply of electricity. sonnenCommunity members gain affordable access to intelligent storage technology as well as to free surplus electricity. The sonnenCommunity actively prevents costly grid expansion through direct marketing of renewable energy even in small residential systems.
"With the sonnenCommunity, we offer all households that want to determine their own energy future access to affordable, clean electricity for the first time," commented Christoph Ostermann, CEO of Sonnenbatterie.
Today's energy model of hunting for various hydrocarbon energy sources to be used for generation is already being disrupted across all power levels. The future has already started to appear and will see a transition from hunting (and generating) energy to gathering energy. There will be numerous impacts from this transition and it will have both business and technological impacts beyond what is generally anticipated today.