A big part of the challenge for companies looking to pour money into renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power is determining whether there is enough sustainable wind or sunlight in a particular geography to maximize investments in these technologies.
Companies looking to reap the benefits of Mother Nature’s renewable energy sources can use analytics to evaluate multiple factors, including the average amount of cloud cover, direct sunlight, and the wind energy potential that’s available to justify investments in renewable energy systems.
For instance, even in sunlight-rich regions such as the Southwest US or the Middle East, executives would want to evaluate the estimated amount of daily cloud cover since any shading that might occur on a given day could dramatically reduce the output of a solar energy system.
Because data centers consume so much energy, a growing number of organizations are exploring the potential for placing photovoltaic cells on the roofs of their data centers to help power these facilities. Electricity used by data centers worldwide rose by 56% between 2005 and 2010, according to The Data Center Journal.
For organizations exploring the potential use of solar energy systems, big data analytics can be used to evaluate a number of requirements for adoption. This includes the available roofing space that can be used, the remaining lifetime of the roofing infrastructure and how quickly it would need to be replaced, along with the pitch of the roof and the amount of shade received by the roof’s surface.
Meanwhile, recent studies suggest that the wind offers the potential to power the entire world – and then some. In fact, wind has the potential to generate more than 20 times the amount of power that the world currently consumes, according to a study by the Washington, DC-based Carnegie Institute for Science,
The potential behind wind energy has led US government officials to push to expand the development of wind farms on the Atlantic coast. Roughly 1,900 square miles of Atlantic Ocean waters are being made available for building offshore wind farms, according to US officials.
One of the strengths of offshore wind farms is that there’s nearly always a steady flow of wind coming ashore to turn the turbines. However, such investments still need to be cost-justified by investors, many of whom are incented by federal tax credits.
In addition to construction costs, developers also have to consider the costs of conducting environmental impact studies. And the biggest challenge is determining who is going to buy the power, notes Brian O’Hara, president of the North Carolina Offshore Wind Coalition.
Power contractors can use analytics to better determine the full amount of construction costs, including estimates involving overtime labor costs and weather-related construction delays, along with the likely market rate for the electricity to be generated and the amount of power that’s expected to be consumed in a particular region.
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