Innovation gaps in renewable power

Introduction


Renewables require continued innovation efforts to reach the performance, reach and deployment in the SDS. The front-runners in deployment in the SDS, wind and solar, will require continued R&D into next generation modules, cells, turbines and system designs, as well as into balance-of-system components to ensure cost reduction trends are maintained.

More fundamentally, reaching high shares will require bridging innovation gaps in a host of integration technologies. New designs and prototypes are also needed to expand the reach of renewables, including floating off-shore wind turbines, ocean power or enhanced geothermal systems. Biomass technologies will require novel processes to reduce costs and tap into new feed-stocks. 

Advanced contribution of wind power to grid integration

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Multi-scale integration of control systems Readiness level:

Ramping services from wind power Readiness level:

Exploiting ocean energy through advanced design concepts

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Ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) Readiness level:

Salinity gradient power Readiness level:

Ocean current technology Readiness level:

Increased integration of off-grid electrification systems

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Pay-as-you-go (PAYG) mobile platforms Readiness level:

Cloud-based metering and software platforms Readiness level:

Productive use energy carrier integration Readiness level:

Innovation in installation processes for offshore wind plant

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Pre-commissioning of onshore wind turbines Readiness level:

Joint installation of turbine and foundation Readiness level:

Maintaining the cost reduction trajectory for solar PV

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Advancing n-type technologies Readiness level:

TOPCon technologies Readiness level:

Next generation turbine, power-train and system management technology

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Sensing and controls including digital twins Readiness level:

Big data analytics from plant-level measurements Readiness level:

Component 3D printing and hybrid materials Readiness level:

Reducing cost and risk of transmission and distribution of electricity from offshore wind

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Higher voltages to reach 400 kV Readiness level:

Low frequency transmission Readiness level:

Scaling up low cost mechanical concepts and manufacturing for wave energy

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Sensing and control systems for ocean power Readiness level:

Big data analytics for ocean power Readiness level:

Power take-off systems Readiness level:

Smarter inverter systems and BOS cost reductions

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Reactive power control Readiness level:

Wide-area active power control Readiness level:

Tapping deeper offshore wind resources through floating wind turbines

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Gravity-based foundations Readiness level:

Offshore wind


A great potential for cost reductions, or even technology breakthrough, exists in the offshore wind sector. In particular, innovation is needed in installation processes and foundation designs. An improved understanding of the requirements of wind technology in offshore conditions, as well as the management of large numbers of wind farms will be necessary to design turbines, systems and farms. Changes in design architecture and an ability to withstand a wider array of design considerations including hurricanes, surface icing, and rolling and pitching moments, are also likely to be needed. Improved alternative-current (AC) power take-off systems or the introduction of direct-current (DC) power systems are also promising technologies for internal wind power plant grid offshore and connection to shore. 

Innovation gaps

Ocean power


Technology innovation and learning by research are key to advance ocean power to maturity. Research should focus on key components and sub-systems, simplifying installation procedures to keep costs down, Advanced design concepts that are currently in the very early stages of innovation could break through, including ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC), salinity gradient power and ocean current technology.

Innovation gaps

Geothermal


Geothermal energy technologies have differing levels of maturity. The exploitation of hot rock resources, e.g. by means of EGS which is currently in the validation phase, has particular potential for improvement

Long-term, sustained and substantially higher research, development and demonstration resources are needed to accelerate cost reductions and design, and bring novel geothermal concepts to market. These advanced technologies have to be proven in pilot plants, meaning that strong government support for innovative small plants is needed.

R&D will need to focus on understanding better how fractures open and propagate in different stress regimes and rock types, in order to be able to better assess the hot rock potential. Similarly, a common approach in identification of advanced hydrothermal resources will help assessing its potential.

Innovation gaps

Solar PV


Innovation in solar power needs continued focus on increasing the performance of commercial PV systems and a shift to cell and technologies that are now only in the pipeline. At higher penetrations, innovation can enable PV to contribute to their own integration through smart grid capabilities, which can mitigate the impact of incidents on the grid. Innovation in digital technologies applied to solar PV systems can also deliver a higher share of mini- and off-grid systems and increase energy access in developing countries.

Innovation gaps

Hydropower


While hydropower is a mature power generation technology, with high energy payback ratio and conversion efficiency, there are still many areas where small but important improvements in technological development are needed. Work is underway to identify and apply new technologies, systems, approaches and innovations, including experience from other industries, that have the potential to make hydropower development more reliable, efficient, valuable and safe. Improvements along the lines of those made in the last 30 to 50 years will also need to continue, though with smaller incremental benefits: mainly in physical size, hydraulic efficiency and environmental performance.

Innovation gaps

Onshore wind


Increased efforts in wind technology R&D are essential to realising the SDS, with a main focus on reducing the investment costs and increasing performance and reliability to reach a lower unit cost of energy. Good resource and performance assessments are also important to reduce financing costs. Wind energy technology is already proven and making progress, and while no single element is like to dramatically reduce costs, taken together improvements can ensure the cost trajectory is maintained.

In particular, innovation efforts are needed to aid in resource planning that minimises the impact of scaling up wind power capacity, and system-friendly integration of wind power through digital solutions and advanced power electronics.

Innovation gaps