The Transformative Impact of Artificial Intelligence in the Renewable Energy Sector
As the renewable energy sector continues to harness wind, solar, and other renewable sources to provide cleaner energy, it’s increasingly turning to artificial Intelligence (AI) to help it do so more efficiently and effectively. AI’s ability to analyze vast datasets, predict patterns, and enhance operational ability helps explain why, according to Precedence Research, the global AI in renewable energy market size is expected to grow from $10 billion in 2022 to nearly $115 billion by 2032.
Let’s look at some of the ways companies in the renewable energy industry are leveraging AI now—and will be in the future.
Power-Generation Site Optimization
AI is being used for optimization of power-generation sites. By leveraging AI algorithms, renewable energy companies can identify the most viable locations for new installations, considering factors like land topography, sunlight exposure, and wind patterns. For instance, this enables solar facilities to optimize panel angles and positions, maximizing sunlight absorption throughout the day. For wind energy, AI predicts wind patterns, allowing turbines to adjust in real-time for optimal energy capture.
Managing Supply and Demand
AI enhances grid stability by predicting energy demand and supply fluctuations, driven by factors such as changes in customer behaviors and weather patterns, helping to ensure a consistent and efficient energy flow. For example, a UK nonprofit called Open Climate Fix, working in collaboration with the National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO), the U.K.’s electric grid operator, is building AI models that provide detailed, real-time, near-term forecasts of sunny and cloudy conditions over solar solar arrays. According to an article describing the impact of these models, “These insights can help ESO, the U.K.’s electric grid operator, address a key challenge in renewable energy: Sudden cloud cover can cause a significant dip in solar power generation, so grid operators ask fossil fuel plants to overproduce energy as backup.”
Another company investing in this space is Google, which has a large number of renewable energy assets worldwide. Google worked with its AI subsidiary DeepMind to develop an AI-powered system to predict wind power output 36 hours ahead of actual power generation.
These types of capabilities not only bolster renewable energy management, but also aids in disaster preparedness, ensuring minimal disruption during adverse weather events.
Grid Infrastructure Maintenance
AI also plays an important role in grid infrastructure maintenance by predicting maintenance needs,and detecting potential issues before they become problematic. This predictive maintenance minimizes downtime and extends the lifespan of renewable energy assets. For example, the MIT Technology Review addressed various ways companies are using AI to predict and prevent maintenance problems, including PG&E’s experience in California, “[U]sing machine learning to accelerate those inspections. By analyzing photographs captured by drones and helicopters, machine-learning models identify areas requiring tree trimming or pinpoint faulty equipment that needs repairs.
Additional Impacts of AI in Renewable Energy
Beyond these areas, AI’s impact extends to energy storage and consumer-side management. Smart AI systems manage battery storage more effectively, optimizing charging and discharging cycles based on predictive energy usage patterns. On the consumer side, AI can help adjust energy consumption, especially as more consumer electronics integrate “Internet of Things” technology, thereby promoting efficiency and reducing costs.
While AI’s potential in renewable energy is immense, challenges remain. Like every sector that is integrating AI technology, renewable energy companies will have to focus on data security and comply with evolving data privacy laws, as well as other potential legal and regulatory obstacles.
However, given the immense rewards, in terms of efficiency and effectiveness, that the integration of AI offers, we expect the technology and renewable energy sectors to continue to race forward toward an AI-driven future.