Michael Rae, Channel Director at Huawei Enterprise

Innovations in solar energy: Accelerating the journey toward a carbon-neutral future

Michael Rae, Channel Director at Huawei Enterprise discuses building an intelligent Internet of Energy for the generation, storage, and consumption of greener electricity

Demand for green energy is on the rise in the UK among both domestic and commercial customers. According to research from Imperial College London, last year the UK generated more power from renewable sources than fossil fuels for the first time. This heightened demand carves out an opportunity for the tech sector to innovate in green technology and, at Huawei UK, we’re focusing on the development of cutting edge solar photovoltaic (PV) technology.

Why solar technology and why now?
While there are many sources of renewable energy available to us – such as wind and hydro – solar is predicted to become a main source of renewable energy. Solar energy is a reliable choice thanks to the constant energy generation from the sun and the sophistication of the smart solar inverters developed. As solar PV technology has advanced in recent years, the cost of installing the technology has drastically decreased, making it an affordable and dependable choice for customers, on top of all the green benefits it offers.

As businesses and the wider public become increasingly conscious of their carbon footprints, we’re seeing a huge uptake in solar PV technology with the country shifting from finite energy to self-generated green energy consumption. An analysis from Solar Media Ltd. and Solar Energy UK revealed that last year 545 megawatts of new solar PV capacity was deployed in the UK, a 27 per cent year-on-year increase compared with 2019.

That’s why our commercial and residential customer base has grown so broad; the solar PV team at Huawei are working with clients from logistics companies and warehouses to educational institutions like schools and universities to install this technology.

As a crucial enabler on the UK’s path to net zero, it’s easy to make a business case for the prioritisation of solar PV technology. In comparison with bulkier renewable energy technologies like wind turbines or hydropower dams, solar PV solutions take up much less space. This massively opens up the market of potential customers available to us.

How can ICT companies help the UK reach its net zero target?
Tech companies by nature are constantly thinking ahead and anticipating the future needs and wants of their customers. That’s why the tech sector should play to their strengths and draw on their expertise to innovate in green technologies by making them more efficient, cost effective, and to improve safety.

We have drawn on our ICT expertise at Huawei UK to provide enhanced intelligence for PV systems through inverters and management systems, and have made the technology much safer. For instance, we have developed a residential solution that monitors and detects ‘arc faults’ to protect against sparks that could cause a fire: In less than 0.5 seconds, the system is shut down to protect the PV system from fire hazard – this makes our arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCI) more than 2 seconds faster than the industry standard.

We also offer an end-to-end integrated energy storage system for residential customers, that allows the solar energy to be used, stored, or fed back to the grid. Huawei’s launch of the smart PV solution in 2014 was a defining step for making PV more intelligent. This technology is now widely used, making the maintenance and management of solar panels easier for households.

What does the future hold for solar PV technology?
As a relatively new yet fast-growing industry, there’s potential for boundless innovation in solar PV technology. The green agenda isn’t going away and the UK tech sector has a real opportunity to help the nation reach its net zero target by supplying the right technology.

Developing battery storage for solar energy, for both residential and commercial purposes, is a huge untapped market that we’re researching. Lots of buildings have installed solar panels but few have storage capacity, which would allow them to store any excess energy for a later date, increasing efficiency.

We’ve also spotted an opportunity for innovation in the electric vehicles market. The UK government’s target to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030 is ambitious; we need innovations in tech, to supply the infrastructure for practical charging stations across the country, to make this a reality.

The tech sector has a huge role to play in the UK’s transition to net zero; the country needs innovation and strong infrastructure to reduce its carbon footprint and advances in solar PV technology is just the start.

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