3 Ways Big Data Can Help Your Renewable Energy Company
Buzzwords in business are often lampooned for often being nothing more than language that merely sounds good while remaining almost entirely abstract (‘synergy,’ anyone?). Though every now and again, an actually important concept can get lost in the endless torrent of corporate lingo.
As of late, there’s been a lot of talk about “big data.” In our modern, hyper-connected world, there is data for everything everywhere. Now, we are to a point where conventional data management is no longer viable.
In other words, it has become too “big.”
Managed correctly, this data can be used for a host of different functions, from the business to the medical world.
How, then, can big data be useful to a renewable energy company?
The Future of Tomorrow, Today!
Okay, so we can’t see the future. That doesn’t mean we can’t try to predict it, though. Big data allows us to track and analyze trends in ways we haven’t been able to before. This can be a boon to an industry that’s still growing, such as renewable energy.
With new technology hitting the market at a rapid pace and the market as a whole constantly shifting, it’s important to stay abreast of what’s coming down the pipeline.
This can also help reassure customers that their investment in green energy will pay off.
“We need to be sure that we’re offering clear, reassuring information about what that change means, because people don’t know they have a choice,” Doug Semmes, director of Green Mountain Energy’s New York market, told The Guardian. “We need to have full transparency.”
Sorting Things Out
For renewable energy companies both big and small, finding a customer base can be tricky. Power infrastructures have been in place for so long that many have become used to their current providers, taking an “If it ain’t broke…” approach.
However, there is a definite interest in renewable energy, but sometimes finding those who are interested can be tough.
That’s where big data comes in.
Smaller companies such as Ethical Electric can use a wide swath of consumer profiles to find those who are interested in their services, rather than spend time and resources canvassing thousands who don’t care.
“If we talked to all 1,000 and only got 1, that wouldn’t work,” Tom Matzzie, the company’s CEO, told The Guardian, “but talking to 60 and getting 1 out of 60 is a business.”
While 60 people isn’t much for a large-scale utility, that doesn’t mean it can’t employ the same principles. Big data, despite its “big” moniker, can be used to distill a potential customer base like turning vast quantities of malted barley into a fine whiskey.
Putting it in Their Hands
Big data can also help by turning those interested parties into actual customers.
One of the principles of retail is that sales trend upward when consumers are able to hold, touch, and feel a product as opposed to purchasing it blind.
Since it’s rather difficult to pick up a full-size solar panel or climb a wind turbine (and I in no way encourage you do to either of those things), the renewable energy industry has to rely on making intangible items feel tangible by way of their benefits.
As a joke, Australian activists “installed” solar panels on top of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s house in response to his government’s unfriendly treatment of the renewable energy industry. Using various computer programs, his home was virtually outfitted with a number of PV panels, estimated to cost $46,655 after renewable energy rebates with a generating capacity of 78.8 kWh per day.
While humorous, this could be a powerful tool for businesses in getting people to go green. This “installation’s” long term outlook is a good one, with a system that would not only pay itself off in 10 years, but more than double the initial investment over a 25 year period.
The installation was devised using big data about weather patterns, maximizing solar exposure, and other factors related to the house. Solar companies are already taking advantage of this in order to court potential customers.
Once they’re on board, big data continues to play a role.
“The real cutting edge now is this more sophisticated performance monitoring,” Murray Hogarth, sustainable energy blogger and director of community energy networks for the Australian company Wattwatchers, told IEEE Spectrum. These monitoring systems use “algorithms based on established knowledge of panel performance, weather data and energy data [for better] monitoring of performance and actual troubleshooting of problems with systems.”
So while “big data” might have the ring of merely being a buzzword, correct application could really benefit your renewable energy business both big and small.
Trafigura and Yara International explore clean ammonia usage
Reducing shipping emissions is a vital component of the fight against global climate change, yet Greenhouse Gas emissions from the global maritime sector are increasing - and at odds with the IMO's strategy to cut absolute emissions by at least 50% by 2050.
How more than 70,000 ships can decrease their reliance on carbon-based sources is one of transport's most pressing decarbonisation challenges.
Yara and Trafigura intend to collaborate on initiatives that will establish themselves in the clean ammonia value chain. Under the MoU announced today, Trafigura and Yara intend to work together in the following areas:
- The supply of clean ammonia by Yara to Trafigura Group companies
- Exploration of joint R&D initiatives for clean ammonia application as a marine fuel
- Development of new clean ammonia assets including marine fuel infrastructure and market opportunities
Magnus Krogh Ankarstrand, President of Yara Clean Ammonia, said the agreement is a good example of cross-industry collaboration to develop and promote zero-emission fuel in the form of clean ammonia for the shipping industry. "Building clean ammonia value chains is critical to facilitate the transition to zero emission fuels by enabling the hydrogen economy – not least within trade and distribution where both Yara and Trafigura have leading capabilities. Demand and supply of clean ammonia need to be developed in tandem," he said.
There is a growing consensus that hydrogen-based fuels will ultimately be the shipping fuels of the future, but clear and comprehensive regulation is essential, according to Jose Maria Larocca, Executive Director and Co-Head of Oil Trading for Trafigura.
Ammonia has a number of properties that require "further investigation," according to Wartsila. "It ignites and burns poorly compared to other fuels and is toxic and corrosive, making safe handling and storage important. Burning ammonia could also lead to higher NOx emissions unless controlled either by aftertreatment or by optimising the combustion process," it notes.
Trafigura has co-sponsored the R&D of MAN Energy Solutions’ ammonia-fuelled engine for maritime vessels, has performed in-depth studies of transport fuels with reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and has published a white paper on the need for a global carbon levy for shipping fuels to be introduced by International Maritime Organization.
Oslo-based Yara produces roughly 8.5 million tonnes of ammonia annually and employs a fleet of 11 ammonia carriers, including 5 fully owned ships, and owns 18 marine ammonia terminals with 580 kt of storage capacity – enabling it to produce and deliver ammonia across the globe.
It recently established a new clean ammonia unit to capture growth opportunities in emission-free fuel for shipping and power, carbon-free fertilizer and ammonia for industrial applications.