With undeniable evidence supporting paths to cleaner, cheaper energy, the spotlight on the power of renewables continues to intensify. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), electricity derived from renewable sources rose by 7% in 2018, accounting for more than a quarter of total power generation. And while a wide array of factors influence transition to renewable energy from region to region, growth is indisputable across the globe.

To better understand the road that lies ahead, we asked five WSP experts from different regions to share what they have learned so far about renewable energy. To put things in perspective, we recapped what our experts said - Dan Manderson (Australia), Rob Istchenko (Canada), Richard Lappin (Middle East), Tim Rippon (UK), and Mike Huisenga (US) - under four main themes: analysis, planning, execution, and management

1. Analysis

In-depth analysis is the first essential step to any successful renewable energy project, and the key to validating all subsequent work. Data derived from a multitude of sources, including mapping, performance modelling, technological and technical analysis, site surveys, economic analysis, energy yield modelling and more, must be interpreted by stakeholders and used to support decisions and establish targets.

Counting the costs: Technology and infrastructure costs have fallen significantly in recent years, but leveraging those advantages into an overall cost-effective plan remains a challenge. As component prices rapidly fall, previously unprofitable projects are becoming economically feasible. Yet, careful analysis is critical to ensuring that the power of every dollar invested is maximized.

“In wind power for example, one turbine today produces as much energy as three turbines did a few years ago,” notes Rob Istchenko. “That represents significant cost savings when taking the cost of building foundations and the associated infrastructure into account.”

The grid is king: One thing is crystal clear - connection to the grid is crucial. Successful transition to a renewable energy supply cannot be fulfilled without leveraging elements of the existing power structure. With power infrastructure around the world varying in that respect, grid analysis must be a precursor to planning.

“You might have a great project with excellent wind resource, backed by abundant investment, but you still need to connect to the grid for reliability,” explains Tim Rippon. “If a project is located too far from the grid, transmission losses and the costs of the grid works can be detrimental to the feasibility of the entire project.” 

However, Tim notes that the transmission losses (as well as other renewable energy system losses) also creates opportunities to maximize the site rated capacity to achieve the highest possible power export at the net metering point.

Policies and regulations: The long-term stability of any renewable power project is dependent upon policies that quickly adapt to changing market conditions. Collaborative environments where industry and government work closely together are most conducive to investor confidence, however, not all markets work the same. 
“National markets are all very different, which presents unique challenges in every region,” explains Dan Manderson. “In Australia, for instance, there has been a policy void for several years, resulting in a patchwork that lacks consistency across the country.”