Green energy is essential in the fight against climate change. The world needs to use less power and switch to less harmful sources, but that’s more complicated than it initially seems. AI could prove to be the missing part of the puzzle.
Experts have identified over 50 use cases for AI in the energy sector. Many of these applications support the shift to a sustainable power infrastructure. Here’s a look at some of the most important uses, highlighting why AI is the future of green energy.
Smart grids, which support two-way electricity flows and utilize extensive data technologies, are AI’s most popular application in energy. AI analyzes the thousands of data points these networks produce to enable real-time adjustments. Those ongoing changes are key to addressing one of renewables’ biggest challenges — intermittency.
Solar panels and wind turbines can’t create power on demand because they rely on fluctuating natural occurrences. Their highest generation periods often don’t align with peak consumption, either. In the winter, people use more energy in the morning and evening when it’s dark out, but solar panels don’t produce power in the dark.
AI-powered smart grids help by sending energy where it’s most needed at any given time. When generation is high and consumption is low, they send more electricity to storage. They distribute stored power when usage grows and production falls. As a result, renewable energy becomes more reliable.
Informed Renewable Expansion
Similarly, not every area is equally suitable for renewables. Solar panels produce more power in regions with lots of sunlight, and because winds increase at higher altitudes, wind turbines are best for mountain regions. However, land ownership intricacies and construction’s impact on nearby wildlife complicate the matter.
Machine learning models can help by analyzing all these complex factors simultaneously. AI can highlight ideal spots to build new renewable infrastructure faster and more accurately than humans can. The more complex these decisions get, the more advantageous AI becomes.
By relying on AI insights, energy companies can find where renewable systems would produce the most energy at the lowest cost and ecological impact. That informed decision-making enables a smoother, safer transition to emissions-free electricity.
Because green energy is inherently more volatile than on-demand alternatives, maintenance is more important. Any breakdowns could cause widespread power disruptions, and high repair costs amplify these systems’ already steep price tags. AI can help through predictive maintenance.
Predictive maintenance anticipates equipment failures by learning to identify early warning signs. These systems alert technicians to issues while they’re still small, easy and affordable to fix. As a result, predictive maintenance reduces downtime and improves efficiency on a level conventional repair practices can’t reach.
This AI-driven maintenance strategy is also helpful for existing nonrenewable grids. Utility companies can minimize energy waste and disruption by keeping power networks in better condition. As a result, they provide the same amount of electricity with fewer emissions.
Improved Energy Efficiency
Efficiency is another key part of the transition to green energy. Reducing consumption in fossil fuel-powered environments decreases emissions before areas switch to renewables. Higher efficiency in regions already using renewables means these intermittent power sources don’t have to produce as much electricity to meet people’s needs.
AI’s role in this area is similar to how smart grids work. AI-powered Internet of Things (IoT) devices in homes, businesses and power plants can analyze real-time conditions and adjust energy delivery in response. That way, they can use as little electricity as possible while supporting the same processes.
Smart thermostats are an excellent example of this concept in action. As relatively simple as these devices are, they reduce heating and cooling usage by 8% a year on average. Applying the same adaptive technology to larger-scale environments can yield significant energy savings.
Supply Chain Optimization
Similarly, AI can reduce the larger energy supply chain’s carbon footprint. Machine learning models can analyze power networks to find areas where subtle changes could reduce emissions. Many of these opportunities are easy for human eyes to miss, but AI is highly effective at this kind of analysis.
For example, reconditioned power transformers eliminate waste and emissions from manufacturing a new one. This alternative is easy to overlook because of its simplicity but can significantly impact the power grid. AI can identify where recycling is the better path forward and recommend it to utility companies.
Emissions reductions can also stem from using a closer supplier, spacing shipments differently or finding recycled material sources. AI analytics can find the best combination of these complex factors to ensure energy supply chains become as efficient as possible.
Weather forecasting and analysis will become increasingly important as the world relies more on renewable power. AI’s proven effectiveness in predictive tasks makes it the ideal tool for the job.
Some organizations already use deep learning models to predict solar generation levels, which vary widely in different weather conditions. This AI approach is more accurate at this prediction than conventional forecasting. Planning effective green energy transitions becomes easier as a result.
Similar solutions can also prepare utility companies for incoming severe weather events. AI models can alert authorities of conditions that may disrupt green power sources. With these early warnings, power companies can ensure sufficient energy reserves and protect their infrastructure to prevent damage and outages.
Real-Time Energy Trading
Another advantage of AI for green energy is that it enables faster, more profitable energy trading. Unlike conventional power sources, renewables let people generate their own electricity through solar panels or small turbines on their property. AI-enabled energy trading allows for a faster return on their investment in these systems, encouraging broader adoption.
The average residential solar panel installation costs over $16,000, even after tax credits. However, because owners generate their own power, they save money by paying less in electrical bills. AI boosts those savings by selling excess energy from these systems back to the grid.
Because renewables are intermittent, they’ll generate more than homeowners may need. AI can recognize when this happens and automatically send the energy to utility companies when it’s most cost-effective. Consequently, the grid can distribute more renewable power while owners of these renewables make money to offset installation costs.
AI Will Pave the Way for a Greener Future
The shift to green energy is a crucial but complicated process. While AI isn’t a complete solution, it provides needed help in that transition.
AI has the speed, accuracy and insight utility companies and their customers need to make large-scale renewable energy viable. At the same time, it will reduce emissions from conventional, fossil fuel-reliant systems. As the threat of climate change grows, these advantages become harder to overlook. AI will become a climate necessity as a result.