Smart panels, smart energy: electrical panel connectivity for the renewables generation

Author : Juan Montecelo | Sales Director | WEG Autrial

01 September 2021

WEG Autrial_Smart panels, smart energy_wind farm
WEG Autrial_Smart panels, smart energy_wind farm

According to industry experts, Spain will hit 68% renewable power generation by 2030. Here, Juan Montecelo, Sales Director at industrial electric panel manufacturer, WEG Autrial explains why panel connectivity in renewable power plants will play an important role in achieving this. Through a medley of software, sensors & controllers, bespoke panel design will ensure Spain has the correct technological foundation to reach its environmental goals.

This article was originally featured in the September 2021 issue of EPDT magazine [read the digital issue]. And sign up to receive your own copy each month.

The experts, namely Acciona, a Spanish conglomerate group dedicated to the development of renewable energy infrastructure, acknowledges the impending challenges of clean energy. In its Flexibility Solutions for High-Renewable Energy Systems report, José Manuel Entrecenales, Chairman & CEO of Acciona, states: “The question is no longer whether clean technologies are going to be the cornerstone of the future energy system, but rather which flexibility options will back them, and how to address the operational and market challenges that will arise.”

Running alongside Spain’s sustainability mission is the nation’s aim to become industrial leaders in Europe. Connected Industry 4.0 (CI 4.0) was announced in 2014, an initiative to digitise and enhance Spain’s industrial sector. Since the announcement, the European Commission (EC) has allocated significant resources — with 97.5 million allocated to connected industry projects, 68 million set aside for IT companies and 10 million for innovative start-ups.

For the energy sector, technology investment is equally valuable. Increased connectivity in renewable power plants is proving vital to success, as evidenced by the more complex and connected panel design found in solar, wind and hydroelectric power plants. While cost has been, and will continue to be, a huge consideration, the increasing intricacy of the panels being manufactured for renewable generation over the last five years demonstrates there is more to the decision-making processes than cost alone.

The additional requirements come down to the volatile and unpredictable nature of renewable energy resources. The industry has seen a shift from isolated, static panel design for fossil fuels, to connected panels that communicate with the rest of the installations in the facility, using software such as supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and sensors.

Where renewables are concerned, increased insight is not a luxury. Due to the volatile nature of renewables, constant monitoring of power generation is essential. Without it, operators risk overloading the grid and causing power outages.

Consider a wind farm as an example. Intelligent software could use historical data to estimate how often the farm will generate power consistently. While making completely accurate predictions is almost impossible, improved panel connectivity is enabling operators to monitor generation in real-time, allowing them to respond when energy output drops and keep power outages to a minimum.

This real-time connectivity will prove even more crucial as more of Spain’s consumption switches to renewable energy. If forecasts are correct and Spain reaches 68% renewable generation by 2030, it will be a plant’s ability to respond to renewable volatility in real-time that will be imperative to its success.

With smarter energy operations, Spain has an opportunity to implement dynamic panel design and reap the connectivity benefits of a smart grid. As renewable energy generation continues to increase, the call for increased flexibility in panel design will too. WEG Autrial offers this dynamism, with its complete offering of panel installation materials, such as pipe, fittings and junction boxes, alongside electronic parts including circuit breakers, digital controls and programmable controllers.

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