What is the current fourth Industrial Revolution doing in the world of renewable energy?
This is one of the most important sectors in today’s economy, partly because of the climate challenges we face, and partly because of its potential to rejuvenate the job market and spur innovation.
Here are some of the major advances and aspects of ‘industry 4.0’ at work in the renewable energy field. Waste Not, Want Not: Core Principles of Energy Efficiency with AI
Many experts would say that far and away the biggest use case for AI (and by proxy, industry 4.0) in energy is in solving so many problems around waste and inefficiency.
All along the line, from mining and harvesting to generation and delivery, specific cloud-connected systems and other new technologies can have an impact on reducing waste, and on the principles of energy efficiency that lower greenhouse effect and produce better results for the environment.
Some refer to the Internet of Things as a major part of waste management, because all of those cameras sensors and other hardware can be part of a vibrant IoT design. But however you view it semantically, businesses are using technologies like sensor-based networks to monitor and automate energy solutions. And that makes everything more efficient.
We’ll see the impact of that on some of these other categories.
The Promise of Robotics
Robotics is also changing the energy field. Having energy robots deployed in different geographic areas means that robotics can contribute to the decentralized small workshop approach that lowers the carbon footprint of energy operations. Robots also save human labor, adding efficiencies and eliminating ergonomic challenges.
One of the best ways to talk about the application of the fourth Industrial Revolution to energy is to talk about the evolution of ‘smart grids.’
Smart grids do those things that we talked about in terms of efficiency. They can:
- Decrease greenhouse effects
- Decrease leakage and loss
- Help with load management metrics
Through all of these types of oversight and evaluation tied to monitoring systems, stakeholders do more to limit the energy output of operations.
Industry 4.0 and Batteries
Is industry 4.0 doing things to improve battery production?
It’s an excellent question, partly because batteries are also powering the renewable energy movement.
Big bottlenecks and limitations in renewable energy efficiency have to do with the storage of energy. The better energy can be stored from the point of generation to the point of use, the more companies can do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
We see from resources like this one that research facilities are looking at particular solutions for lithium ion battery production. What about spectrometry for electrode slurries? What about making lithium acquisition greener?
All of these things are being studied and worked on as additional potential solutions tied to an industry 4.0 approach.
Industry 4.0 – Planning Carbon Sequestration
Another big goal in the renewable energy movement is to capture carbon and remove it from the equation. Industry 4.0 and its fruits can have big benefits here, too. Resources from the World Economic Forum start to address the confluence of challenges and solutions that are represented in this part of ecology.
This is one that some technology journalists may not be covering as much when they talk about the fourth Industrial Revolution in green energy designs. But it is important.
Basically speaking, additive manufacturing addresses the capability of using additives to create physical products. So if the original material was expensive, difficult to come by, or more importantly, carbon intensive, new processes can substitute cheap, ubiquitous and green additives.
We see this in the use of items like bamboo and clay, applied to manufacturing where traditional items like wood and metal alloys for various types of plastic were significantly less renewable and sustainable – in fact, a discussion of plastics in the ocean and on land shows that replacing these finite materials with renewable ones is paramount.
That’s just some of what business is doing with renewable energies in the age of industry 4.0. We’ll continue to see these kinds of use cases, and others, ramp up as the frontier for AI/ML continues to move forward. It’s helpful to think about future enterprise applications, in the context of what companies are doing now, and to understand what the fourth industrial revolution will mean through the lens of history.