Power Magazine: Our predictions for 2019
In the lead up to Christmas, one of our directors, Dave Ogden spoke to the team at Power Magazine, to discuss some of our predictions for the electrical engineering landscape in 2019. He spoke about all-things-drones and renewable energy. If you missed the coverage, you can read it again below.
Power magazine: Will renewable energy (solar, wind, battery storage) continue to grow in 2019?
David Ogden: Although developers are now achieving grid parity in the UK, the shared end-goal is a significant driver for the growth in renewables. The falling price of equipment, co-location of technologies, and investments by wind farms to upgrade from nominal power outputs to a greater, more efficient generator, are all helping the renewables sector to flourish.
Historically, one of the main barriers for the adoption of renewable technology was the upfront setup cost of clean energy vs. that of fossil fuels. However, in recent years, the initial outlay associated with utility-scale wind, solar and battery storage facilities has declined significantly.
The reduction in government subsidies has made the industry rethink how to encourage the growth of renewable technologies and sector implementation, in order to generate the required income for developers to take the step into a unsubsidised future.
By removing government-mandated support and introducing cross-subsidisation of subsidy-free schemes – where new projects co-locate with those already connected to the grid or battery storage – there’s a much clearer path towards achieving grid parity.
In addition, as the cost of the engineering equipment itself – such as photovoltaic panels and steel – is starting to come down, progress will inevitably continue. Scotland and Wales are already ahead of the curve when it comes to embracing clean energy and it’s clear the demand is there.
Power magazine: How the use of drones is changing the electrical engineering industry?
David Ogden: Drone technology plays a huge part in the work we do at Smith Brothers Contracting Ltd – so much so that we put one of our team members through his drone pilot’s licence.
In the electrical engineering industry, drones have a crucial role in the pre-construction planning phase. The technology makes cable route planning much more efficient, because the birds-eye view highlights where there may be obstacles – such as woodlands, wetlands, water courses and railway lines – to overcome during the cable-laying phase.
When it comes to inspections and maintenance too, drones can streamline the whole process. Due to the nature of the infrastructure of renewable energy generation, inspections using traditional methods can be tricky.
Take the height and locations of wind farms for example – drones can be used to examine turbine damage easily, while heat mapping cameras can pick up any issues with solar panels.
Not only that, but if we need to look into any issues with an electrical plant, we can use a drone to inspect it from overhead – at least in the first instance – without having to isolate equipment.