One of the current challenges of renewable energy is to use the network of different types of generators and distribution systems efficiently. If building enough generators was the only thing needed in order to transform our society to renewable sources, we would have been far further in the process by now. But the challenge of connecting such a multitude of differently sized installations, is an enormous undertaking. Imagine what is needed to combine the electricity from a couple of solar panels on a roof top with that of a giant wind park in the middle of the North Sea, in such a way that they can run everything from a mega factory – to your toaster.
In addition to vastly different installation sizes and locations, many devices are delivering constantly varying output, depending on weather conditions. This needs to be balanced out to deliver predictable amounts of power with stable voltage. And to make matters worse, every time someone turns on a light or charges their electric car, or a factory starts up their machinery, the voltage on the grid is altered. To compensate for all of these constant varying factors, there is a quite complex layer of technology between generation and consumption. This layer is currently where much of the cutting edge technology in the field is being developed and deployed. Usually under the term smartgrid.
The smartgrid optimizes how power is distributed and used. An example of this can be found in the RENEW project on Senja. Homes are being installed with smart meters and intelligent monitoring systems, so that the temperature of bathroom floors, hot water tanks and other appliances can be altered slightly to compensate for fluctuations in the grid. In this way it is not necessary to do every adjustment on the generator side.