2019 was a year of consolidation rather than breakthroughs for clean energy technologies. Will 2020 be different?
This year will likely be remembered as a period of technology consolidation rather than breakthrough innovation in the energy industry. Emerging industries such as offshore wind and lithium-ion battery storage have gone from strength to strength.
Meanwhile, more novel technologies such as energy blockchains and flow batteries have been relatively quiet this year.
In some respects, this is no bad thing. It signals that many low-carbon grid technologies are maturing and achieving the scale needed to compete with fossil-fuel generation. And there is still plenty of scope for innovation in maturing sectors.
In the battery market, for example, “the supply chain is constantly battling disruptions resulting from limited mineral supply,” said Lindsay Gorrill, CEO at the energy storage firm Kore Power.
“My prediction for 2020 is that the battery development and manufacturing supply chain will improve to meet explosive market demand for residential, industrial and utility-scale operations,” he said.
At the same time, though, more radical breakthroughs might be needed to solve longer-term grid decarbonization challenges, such as how to deal with intermittency and seasonal weather variations in regions with very high penetrations of renewables.
Because of this, it will still be important to keep an eye on emerging technologies as we enter the new decade. Here are five that industry insiders have highlighted for GTM.
Following the growing popularity of floating solar arrays on freshwater bodies, 2019 saw a spate of announcements regarding sea-based PV projects. Whether this concept will go mainstream remains open to doubt, however.
“Offshore floating solar has the potential to be the next frontier, but there are still challenges to overcome within the inland floating solar arena,” said Molly Cox, a research associate at Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables.