The Big 3D of Tomorrow’s Power Generation
Decentralization, Decarbonization and Digitalization
The power industry is going through its biggest transformation in decades. This affects all the participants in the value chain, all the way from product suppliers through utility companies to end-users. Small-scale flexible solutions are replacing the rigid centralized power stations with more intelligence and less environmental impact.
A decentralized energy system is a relatively new approach in the power industry in most countries. Traditionally, the power industry has focused on developing large, central power stations and transmitting generation loads across long transmission and distribution lines to consumers in the region. Decentralized energy systems seek to put power sources closer to the end-user. End-users are spread across a region, so sourcing energy generation in a similar decentralized manner can reduce the transmission and distribution inefficiencies and related economic and environmental costs.
A decentralized energy system is characterized by locating of energy production facilities closer to the site of energy consumption. A decentralized energy system allows for more optimal use of locally available renewable fuels, including waste, to generate energy commodities (electricity and thermal energy) for local consumption. This reduces fossil fuel use and increases eco-efficiency. The decentralized system can be augmented with energy storage and demand response solutions to support network stability and energy availability.
In the field of decarbonization, the challenge is easy to quantify. In 2018, the power sector emitted 13.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere, i.e. 41 percent of total global emissions. One of the challenges of decarbonizing the power sector is sufficiently reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions while guaranteeing reliability, security, and affordability of energy to all. Solar and wind power are zero-carbon technologies, but their variability can challenge grid stability if they are not properly balanced by sufficient storage and base-load power.
The most common approaches to decarbonization include
- Biofuel usage, such as landfill gas and biomethane, which are net-zero-carbon renewables
- Carbon capture, use, and storage (CCUS) from fossil fuel power generation using the CO2 for other processes, such as enhanced oil recovery, or storing it somewhere safe, such as in deep-rock formations
- Bioenergy carbon capture and storage (BECCS) for carbon-neutral biomass, such as wood pellets and agricultural waste, which is burned for fuel, with CO2 capture resulting in net negative emissions
- Power-to-gas-to-power (P2G2P) using excess electricity to produce hydrogen that can be stored in the gas network and later converted into power again
Digitalization is now trending also in the power industry. Digital solutions have become powerful tools to manage the complexity of the current business environment. Rapid advances in sensors, control systems, industrial software and artificial intelligence are opening new ways of driving efficiency gains from existing operations and enabling new, more flexible business models with extensive opportunities for growth.
Digitalization can offer a significant range of immediate operational and financial benefits:
- sensors, devices, and software can enable operators to utilize a wide range of data in real-time and improve decision making
- control systems enable improved performance and maintenance of vital infrastructure and equipment either on-site or remotely
- advanced analytics enables predictive maintenance and simulation to optimize asset performance
- remote monitoring and external support can address key human resource and knowledge retention issues
New, more agile operational and business models are now possible based on connectivity, optimized decision making and automated processes. Cloud technology and secure remote services enable a closer relationship with partners and allow companies to focus more on strategy and less on operational issues.
All these trends are affecting the business environment simultaneously. Changes in power demand patterns, commitments to curtail GHG emissions and increasingly competitive power market ensure that only the most agile companies capable of embracing the change will survive. Companies concentrating in only one challenge at a time are doomed to fail.
WOIMA Corporation is a Finnish supplier of best-in-class waste-to-value products, projects and services worldwide. We have developed solutions that enable us, and the customer, to transform and recycle virtually any waste stream into raw materials and energy. At WOIMA we combine Finnish engineering know-how in waste management with power generation design expertise. These solutions are used in Finland every day. They support the circular economy ideology and ensure that less than 1% of Finland’s waste ends up in landfills.
Our mission is to improve quality of life both locally and globally, as well as empower people to utilize waste as a commodity. Our decades of international project management experience ensure an on-time, in-budget and high-quality WOIMA solution delivery across the globe.