Priming the grid for the energy transition

solar panels

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The conversation around the energy transition from fossil fuels to renewables is not a new one – but it is one we need to begin viewing through a more informed lens.

The world’s longstanding reliance on fossil fuels is not only detrimental to the environment but is also a highly volatile practice based on global political tensions. Because of this and various other factors, many have been and continue to actively work toward making the energy transition a reality.

But there are several challenges that come into play in doing so, primarily pertaining to the current state of the energy grid and its ability to accommodate a large-scale shift toward renewable energy.

Here is a look at the driving forces behind the shift to renewables, the most prevalent challenges facing it, and several solutions to help us get there.

The shift to renewables

While the need for an increased use of renewables has begun, it has been slow to pick up. In 2019, fossil fuels accounted for more than 80% of global energy consumption, while renewables like wind and solar accounted for 11.4%.

The foremost motivation for the transition is to limit the adverse effects of energy consumption on the environment, but renewable energy generated from natural resources is also increasingly cheaper – and represents a great opportunity to create millions of greener jobs in and around the sector.

And while our ability to harness and make use of renewable energy is growing, its adoption is still lower than the overall increase in global energy demand. Some of the leading issues related to renewable energy are efficiency, energy storage, reliability, and variability.

We have made some progress towards more renewables however we are still in a transitional period to help make the grid more sustainable and more capable of accommodating an accelerated reliance on renewable energy.

The challenge of renewables

The growing reliance on renewables has created new challenges for the grid and for its operators, primarily in balancing generation and consumption in real time. This has everything to do with the fact that renewables are intermittent – something today’s outdated grid is not designed to accommodate. This can create major challenges during times of peak demand.

When we say renewable energy is “intermittent,” we mean it is not constantly being created in a given location because the sun is not always shining, and the wind is not always blowing. This is very different from the steady, flexible, and readily available attributes we have come to expect from traditional energy sources.

To enable intermittent supply from wind and solar, these sources must be matched with intermittent demand in order to balance the grid. This is where demand response comes into play.

Demand response

Demand response is a promising solution to the challenges of intermittent energy sources, allowing grid operators to more efficiently balance generation and consumption. The balancing act is done by directing power toward mission-critical applications when they need it most. Smarter data centers can serve as a stabilizing force by ramping usage down when the grid is not producing enough power and ramping up when there is too much power.

Compute North and the TIER 0™ model

Compute North’s TIER 0™ data center model can play a key role in the energy transition due to its ability to operate efficiently, scale quickly, and serve compute-intensive workloads. The type of compute work performed in these facilities is fully interruptible around the clock and can be curtailed by grid operators, unlike traditional data centers.

The increase in demand for flexible energy supply coincides with our ability to act as valuable partners to energy companies and grid operators rather than as passive consumers of power.

Compute North has demand response programs with select energy suppliers, allowing operations to be curtailed when necessary to align with periods of low supply or peak demand. Our TIER 0™ data center design creates the ability to throttle power at each facility as required and to dynamically manage power usage – helping to manage costs, accelerate adoption of renewable energy across the county, and improve stability and resiliency of the grid.

Contact us today to learn more about the role Compute North is playing to help facilitate the global energy transition and how you can get involved.

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