The rise of renewable energies

The falling cost of equipment and installation together with increased investment are driving the growth of renewable energies

By Antoinette Price

During the United Nations Climate Convention – 2015 Paris COP 21, it was recognized that renewable energy (RE) is a key part of the answer to achieving sustainable development and reducing the impact of climate change. Global electricity networks must adapt and include RE technologies.

RE_solar_house Solar panels help power homes, cars and even the International Space Station

IRENA innovation week

For the sixth consecutive year, renewable energy (RE) generation capacity increased by 8,3% during 2015, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). In this context, IRENA held its first Innovation Week in May, with the theme The Age of Renewable Power. Key industrial and political players discussed how technological, operational and systemic innovations in policy, regulation and business, interact and reinforce each other. IEC representatives presented and discussed the role of standardization and quality assurance in RE technology, as well as how it can help more people get access to electricity.

A framework for providing renewable energy safely

Like any products and services, equipment used to produce renewable energy, such as solar panels, wind turbines or wave energy convertors, must be safely installed and maintained, as well as function reliably.

The IEC System for Certification to Standards Relating to Equipment for Use in Renewable Energy Applications (IECRE) was set up in 2014 to provide a global framework for independent assessment of equipment and services related to RE applications. The System uses IEC International Standards developed by various Technical Committees (TCs) including IEC TC 82: Solar photovoltaic energy systems, IEC TC 88: Wind energy generation systems, and IEC TC 114: Marine energy - Wave, tidal and other water current converters. One of its goals is to facilitate international trade of the equipment and services.

During the session entitled Energy systems modelling and planning, Frank Ormel, Chair of IECRE-Wind highlighted some of the benefits of the system. “IECRE aims to offer a harmonized application around the world, which ensures uniform implementation and mutual recognition between certification bodies and test labs.”

The System structure comprises national member bodies and experts from industry who make up the working groups and stakeholders. These include certification bodies, test laboratories, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and end users.

Ormel highlighted the fact that IEC-recognized Certification Bodies and Test Laboratories themselves fulfil high-level requirements, so as to be able to carry out the quality assessments. This is in line with the goal for IEC-certified equipment and services to be widely accepted, for example, by local and national authorities.

A new way of delivering electricity

Vimal Mahendru, IEC Ambassador and Convenor of the IEC Systems Evaluation Group for low voltage direct current (LVDC) applications, distribution and safety for use in developed and developing  economies (SEG 4), participated in the session entitled, The future grid: electric highways.

Putting LVDC in context, Mahendru explained that one in five people does not have access to electricity. “LVDC bridges the distance between the solar photovoltaic (PV) and the home, without conversion losses and expensive, elaborate and cumbersome grids. LVDC networks are quick to erect, energy efficient and cost effective, enabling speedy electrification of homes and villages.”

LVDC also supports much technology used today, from electric vehicles, RE technology, kitchen appliances, lighting, transport, smartphones, tablets, to systems with data and embedded electronics. The Internet of Things (IoT), smart homes and smart cities run on it.

IEC SEG 4 is tasked with evaluating the status of standardization in the field of LVDC applications and products, as well as identifying new areas for standardization work. It is also assessing LVDC usage in different integration environments in developed and developing economies with the objective to enhance energy efficiency and develop new ways to utilize LVDC power.

RE_wind_vestas Wind turbine systems produce clean, renewable energy (Photo: Vestas Wind Systems A/S)
RE_solar_house Solar panels help power homes, cars and even the International Space Station
Siemens tidal The motion of ocean surface waves is used to create electricity (Photo: Siemens)