The energy transition is truly underway, regardless of American elections. It is encouraging to see the development of new grids that will make the use of renewable energy more effective. Loz Blain writes on the New Atlas website about latest developments from an Asia-based group of entrepreneurs.
Asian “super grid” the first step towards a global, interconnected, renewable energy grid
An Asia-based group of entrepreneurs has put forth a vision for a global, interconnected energy grid that connects energy users with renewable generation sources half a world away. Starting with an Asia wide super grid, GEIDCO is aiming for a connected world by 2050.
Clean, renewable energy will soon be cheaper than traditional polluting sources – but there’s still a big problem. It tends to get generated in inconvenient places, at inconvenient times that don’t necessarily match up with where it’s needed.
Part of this problem could be solved with grid-level battery storage – if anyone can come up with a big enough, cheap enough, workable solution for that. But an international group of entrepreneurs is working on an extremely ambitious scheme to link the entire globe together into an interconnected power grid that would let renewable energy be generated and used at any time, from anywhere.
GEIDCO – the Global Energy Interconnection Development and Co-operation Organization is a China-based group that now has agreements with energy companies in China, South Korea, Russia and Japan, as well as utilities, equipment manufacturers and universities from 14 countries.
It’s simple enough; whenever there’s a big power load somewhere, there’s somewhere else in the world where that demand matches up with a generation spike. When it’s noon in the Gobi desert, and solar generation is at its peak, it’s dinner time in the UK and everyone’s boiling kettles.
The first step for GEIDCO is to build a connected Asia Super Grid that could bring the theoretically huge renewable energy generation capabilities of North China’s Gobi desert as far east as Japan.
The entire idea is contingent on ultra high voltage power transmission lines, thousands of miles operating at more than 1,000 kilovolts AC/800 kilovolts DC. High voltages reduce losses over long distances, and both Russia and Japan already have hundreds (in Russia’s case thousands) of miles of ultra high voltage lines up and running. These pale in comparison to China’s infrastructure; since 2009 China has built nearly 10,000 miles of UHV power lines, with about the same again to come online in the next two years.
The larger GEIDCO’s interconnected web of renewable energy becomes, the more stable the supply is, because it’s less dependent on individual sources, so moving toward a global energy network that shares power from Greenland to South Africa, Australia to Switzerland is the ultimate goal.
Of course, there’s a lot of obstacles in the way – from geopolitics, to who’s in control of the grid, to grid stability in an interconnected world, to the enormous infrastructure costs involved. But having already begun to face extreme levels of pollution due to its massive 1.35-billion population, China is pushing hard on renewable energy and making huge investments.
And of course, with Brexit and the Trump election in 2016, it seems the political climate may be moving away from globalism and toward national independence, which could put grid-level battery storage higher on the menu than projects like this in some places.
Still, GEIDCO’s medium term target is to put intra-continental interconnected grids in place in each continent by 2030 and to have the continents linked up by 2050, all while bringing global clean energy generation capacity up to some 90 percent of the global total energy demand.
That’s a heck of a vision, but one that has the potential to make a massive positive impact on the world.