Environments changes via Solar Panels
If you’re looking to learn about the latest innovations in energy and power or find out what is in the works to build a sustainable energy future. For more than 100 years, Cummins has committed itself to producing the cleanest, most advanced engines and power systems. Now, Cummins is also committed to helping people like you learn more about emerging energy technologies. This is Brightest Bulbs. Today we will move from many to few, and focus on Bright Spots, the energy innovations and technologies that are poised to getthe spotlight in this decade. This is Thomas Hillig, host of Brightest Bulbs podcasts and webinars. Cathy Choi and Gary Johansen are joining our conversation today. With their years of hands-on experience in bringing you energy and power technologies, to markets ranging from data centers and healthcare facilities to locomotives and mining industry. Thank you, Gary, and Cathy, for joining today’s episode. Exciting to have you in this episode of our podcast. Let’s start with a lighter question. If there is an apocalypse, what would be the three things you would take with you? So this is Cathy. Thank you, Thomas. I’ll go first answering that question. I do want to preface this by saying that I’m going to assume my family is with me and that I don’t have to make any choices on which child to take with me. So being that’s the case, the three things I would take, should there be an apocalypse, is the first thing would be a survival guide, particularly for the wild. And because, like Gary knows, I’ve stated this many times in the past, the wilderness and I do not get along very well. So a survival guide would be probably the first thing. The second thing would be LUNA lemon bars. They are my favorite snack. And the third would be my father’s wedding band. It’s the smallest, so very mobile, and the oldest family heirloom that I own. So those would be the top three things. Great. Cathy. What about you, Gary? Hi, Thomas. It’s great to be with you today. And, Cathy, great to join you in this. I’m not sure I can follow up Cathy’s very well, but I think I would bring my family pictures and a guitar and my favorite car, which was which was my 1996 Impala SS. Great. So we have a car. We can go full speed to the first question. But before we jump into the Brightest Spots, the exciting technologies, let’s start with the why question. Why is there the need for innovations in energy and power technologies, Gary? Well, sustainability is the first answer. As we know, converting energy from one form to another, for example, converting chemical energystored in coal to electricity, could create pollutants. I think you’ve covered this in more detail within the first episode. Many of the innovations in the energy field commonly focus on delivering energy in a more sustainable way. Look at the energy consumption trends, it’s seen that we always need more energy to sustain our lifestyles. This has really been the trend over decades and forecast as we continuegoing ahead. For instance, within the last three decades, there was only one time that humankind’s need for energy went down, and that was in 2008 due to the economic downturn. Now we don’t know, you know, annual energy demand for 2020 yet, and we’re very likely to be the second time in the last 30 years that the need for energy will go down year over year. For all the other years, we’ve neededmore energy than the year before. And this continually increasing use of energy puts the spotlight on the need for sustainable technologies. I have the feeling you want to add something, Cathy. I do. Thank you, Thomas. I agree with everything that that Gary stated. But I would also say economics is a close second. I agree that sustainability is critical, yet for many businesses, the economics really need to work, or at least they shouldn’t be extremely punitive so they can source the energy they need in a much more sustainable way. You know, the traditional notion is that the cost of energy was simply a cost of doing business. However, today that view has changed. In a recent Deloitte study, they found that 88 percent of businesses now see energy procurement as providing value, and that value is being able to provide better energy resilience. That means a business has reliable, regular supply of energy in the event of a power failure. So back to the question of why the need for innovation, the economic benefits we’re seeing today are driving more opportunities. Those opportunities fuel innovation,and those innovations also fulfill the needfor sustainable energy production. Thank you, Cathy. Let’s jump into the energy technologies for this decade then, technologies that will get increasing traction within the next 10 years. It’s a broad field to cover within the next 20 minutes. That’s a lot of talk,given how many technologies are gaining more traction. From various consulting projects, I know that each technology comes with a unique value proposition. Maybe the hardest question for today, how do you think we should frame up this discussion? Well, you’re right. There’s a lot of talk and interest in technology, particularly when innovation and energy intersect. And sometimes that feels very overwhelming. So if we simplify and take a step back and kind of look at the whole landscape, there appear to be three clusters of technologies that form. And I always like to use an analogy in this space to help us visualize those clusters. And the analogy I like to use is our anatomy, the human body, something we’re very familiar with. And I associate those three technology clusters to the brain, the individual organs that manage and power the whole body. And for the analogy, we’ll first start with the digital technologies out there. These are the brains of the operation. Many digital technologies or innovations that had been created beyond the energy sector that are now being applied within the energy sector. An example of this would be machine learning. The second analogy is the component level technologies. And you can consider those as the individual organs in the body, like our heart and lungs. These are the core components that do the physical work to generate and provide the energy to power. So, for example, for context, fuel cells or energy storage systems would fit in this category. And lastly, the third level of systemis the whole body. These are the technologies that bundle these components and digital technologies that providethe high value solutions for businesses and consumers. And for all these type of technologies, Cummins is greatly interested in developing those. And should you be interested in a career in these areas of technologies, we encourage you to visit cummins.com/careers. Great digital technologies versus component level versus system level. The brain, organs, and the body. Let’s start with the digital side. The brain’s artificial intelligence machine learning connectivity, all terms we are familiar with from our everyday lives. Devices and gadgets is still one of these technologies you want to cover a little more in detail with regard to the energy and power sector. Cathy. That’s a tough one, because I really enjoy all of those, but I would pick connectivity as the one technology to spotlight in the energy and power sector. When I think about the others, in my mind, machine learning is a step to get to what I consider the ultimate goal, which is artificial intelligence. And that’s where the machines can make smart or intelligent decisions. However, at the end of the day,it’s connectivity, which is the enabler that brings all of these technologies together. Okay, connectivity. How does connectivity come to life for energy and power? Cathy. Well, the best way I can describe it would be through an example. And one really good example is how connectivity enables microgrids. Microgrids are a promising and growing area for technology integration. And oftentimes they feature intelligent controls and management software. These systems can monitor many parameters, like the cost of energy from utilities versus the cost of electricitythat may be generated locally. They can monitor performance of solar panels using information from weather forecasts. And then they make choices on activating the lowest cost solution. Connectivity is a key as it enables intelligent controls and asset managementand connectivity also provides us, the technical community, the information we need to master understanding of the assetsin order to optimize their collective performance for sustainability economics, which is what we highlighted earlier as drivers for innovation and energy. Thanks, Cathy. Let’s move into the component level technologies or the organs, the way you referenced earlier, Cathy. Gary, we have fuel cells, energy storage, and batteries, advancements in renewable technologies. Is there one of these that you think is more promising than the others in terms of our energy future? Thanks, Thomas. I think they all are quite interesting. But if we think about the one that has the most — the greatest promise, I think fuel cells are probably at the top of the list and they may be the onethat’s the lesser known. Fuel cells have been aroundfor a while, but they’ve really started coming into their own in terms of cost and efficiency and power density. Before we get into details, what exactly is a fuel cell? It’s a term many of us hear often, and it would be good, Gary, to remind us what exactly it is. Sure, super quick. All fuel cells are energy converters. They convert energy from one form or another. And more specifically, fuel cells convert the chemical energy stored in the fuelto electric and thermal energy, which is, of course, heat without the need for combustion. Engines, power generators, and power plants also convert energy from one form to another, but they rely on combustion, which reduces the overall efficiency of the energy conversion. But there are several different kinds of fuel cells and you would often see a polymer electrolyte membrane or PEM fuel cells, and they’re also known as hydrogen fuel cells in transportation type of applications. Most commonly, we provide these for trucks and trains. For example, during the second quarter, two trains powered by Cummins fuel cells completed an 18-month trial in Europe with over 180,000 kilometers traveled. By 2022, there will be 41 of these types of trains powered by Cummins fuel cellsrunning in Europe, making Cummins the leading provider of fuel cells for trains globally. Solid oxide fuel cells are another type of fuel cell. Both produce electricity and they just have different applications and benefits. Thank you, Gary. Solid oxide fuel cells. Those are the ones that are more suitable for larger electricity generation applications. What is special or unique about them? What makes them the promising energy technology, Cathy? Well, I think solid oxide fuel cells,extremely promising. I agree with you. And they’re often used in stationary applications for larger power outputs. So they’re not normally used to power a car or truck, but rather power buildings and/or factories. In terms of what makes themunique and promising, their environmental footprint is fairly minimal. They basically use natural gas and oxygen to generate electricity and water, and minimal amounts of carbon dioxide are produced as a byproduct. Unlike a coal power plant, solid oxide fuel cells also don’t emit sulfur oxides or particulate matter. They’re minimal CO2 emissions that are partially driven by the use of natural gas as a fuel, but also by the highelectrical efficiency of the fuel cell system,which can reach 60 percent. That means 60 percent of the energy stored in the fuel can be converted into useful electrical energy, which is higher than that of the efficiency of a coal power plant. Additionally, the useful excess heat produced by the fuel cell can be integrated into a co-generation system, thereby increasing the system efficiency to over 80 percent. Finally, you can tack on the scenario where fuel cellsare installed locally, and they can eliminate the distribution losses from large, centralized power plants. In the US, this transmission and distribution loss are on the order of around 5 percent. Gary, do you have some thoughts in this area? Yeah, Cathy. I think it’s also important to remember that high efficiency results in better economic outputs in addition to the reduced environmental footprint. So to generate the same electrical output, solid oxide fuel cell would use less natural gas, for example, than a central power plant that uses natural gas as fuel. So you get that economic benefit that you were describing at the beginning of the podcast. Okay. Let’s move on to system level technologies. Microgrids, distributor generation, and hydrogen ecosystems are some that quickly come to our minds. Is there one jumping out to be considered as the most promising energy technology at a system level for the decade ahead? Cathy. For me, microgrids take the top spot. That’s probably no surprise based on my interest in connectivity and microgrids. And although microgrids are not necessarily new, they have been perfected over recent years to now shine and deliver their promised value. Cathy, I agree on microgrids. The other important consideration of microgrids is really associated with the other most popular topic in the energy sector. That’s renewable energy integration. So we think about the ability to bring in solar energy, wind energy, and connect it, manage it, make sure it’s resilient and it’s protected and stable. I think the microgrids really are the most promising. Thank you, Gary. Your reference to renewables makes me curious on that front, but let me quickly ask you, what exactly is a microgrid, for all listeners that might not be so familiar with the term? Sure, Thomas. In a nutshell, a microgrid is a local energy system capable of producing, potentially storing, and distributing energy to the facilities within the network. So let’s say you’re on an island, let’s say Hawaii, and you’re sipping your favorite Craft beer. By the way, this is not a fictional story, although it kind of sounds like one. This is from one of our partners in Hawaii who also happens to be the largest Craft brewer across the islands. They’re working towards grid independence for better economics and sustainability. Their hybrid system features solar photovoltaic cells, stationary batteries,and Cummins generators. All of these different assets are called Distributed Energy Resources, or DERs. The intelligent controls and management software that Cathy talked about earlier, are the other elements of the system that provide further functionality to the microgrid. This is a real-life example of a microgrid. So microgrids can be connected to the centralized utility grid or they can be completely off-grid and self-sustaining. Great. And then going back to the linkage between microgrids and renewables, would you mind sharing a little more about that, Gary? Sure, Thomas. Renewables, without any doubt, are the rising star. The most popular topic in energy technology. They’re really also the final destination in terms of generating electricity. Solar PV probably has the broadest recognition when it comes to renewables. You might have seen this statistic, that in 2019, solar installations across the world were over 100 gigawatts and covered an area equivalent to one tenth the size of Puerto Rico in just one year. Similarly, wind,especially offshore wind, is picking up rapidly. So microgrids come to help by integrating these renewable sources into the energy infrastructure. These renewable sources become a physical part of the microgrid, and intelligent controls manage their utilization. This was great. Let’s pause for a moment and remember award winners in each category. For Digital Technologies category, you have both agreed on connectivity. For component level technologies, fuel cells get the prize in terms of most promising energy technology for the decade. For system level technologies, microgrids get the top prize. Thank you, Cathy, and Gary, for joining today’s episode. It was exciting to listen about the most promising energy technologies of this decade. For listeners that are interested to learn more about energy innovations, any resources you would suggest them to look at? I have a couple of recommendations, actually, quite a few. The M.I.T. Energy Initiative, in the past, Cummins has sponsored their spring symposium and their website has informative links to news, events, and other media like podcasts. The reports from places like the IEA, which is the International Energy Agency, and Ernst and YoungSustainability Reports are really good references as well. And I can always rely on my ASME magazine associated publications. Thomas, I would just add that our listeners can go to our website, cummins.com, and find access to information about our solutions and sustainability and energy efficiency. And I would definitely put a plug in to all those students listening out there. If you’re interested in a career at Cummins, you can find our job postingsand exciting opportunities to work in sustainable energy for the future at Cummins. Great. Thank you, Gary. In addition to Gary and Cathy’s suggestions, be sure to visit cummins.com/podcasts to find other episodes and more resources.