How Envision is hedging their renewables bets: Forecast technologies, floating storage & hydrogen

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Smart Cities, Singapore’s first floating energy storage system, and weather forecasting for renewables with 90% accuracy are only some of the innovations Henry Tay has witnessed as the Assistant Regional Director of Envision Digital.

In Tay’s experience managing most of Southeast Asia, he has seen Envision continue to evolve, especially in the digital landscape, but not in an expected way, especially considering the last year.

“COVID is a Black Swan event [but] it has been good to us, actually, because we see more and more adoption of renewable[s]. Last year we exceeded our target, and we are [one of the] top three wind turbine makers in the world.”

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Although their business has accelerated, it has not been without challenges. According to Tay, there have been major bottlenecks, most notably in the wider-scale digital adoption across the power sector, both grid and in generation, which has been “a bit like a fairy tale that is not coming.”

Digitalisation is something Envision specialises in, and with the right application, they can lessen the growing pains by fostering optimization of assets and produce analytics on plant performance. In terms of the digital aspect of renewables and because RE is dependent on the weather, Envision now has a strong weather forecasting team that can assist in potentially predicting energy capture and will stabilize grid operation.

“I can confidently say that our forecast accuracy is about 90% [which] is quite good.” What makes their weather forecast different from the metrological office or the government’s agency, which is buying raw data from ECMWF, the European Centre for medium weather forecasting. After inputting the collected data into the high-performance computing (HPC) system and together with the machine learning algorithm, a real-time prediction is computed.

“With this information together with the owner of the assets, they can better improve by using the data that they have from digital solutions and then increase their bottom line.” Overall, Tay said between the data and weather accuracy, ROI may not be immediate but eventual.

Shifting to the topic of how the Lion City has supported Envision’s new technology, Tay said, “actually Singapore is quite blessed. They have been very encouraging.” An example was when Envision had embarked upon spearheading Singapore’s first floating energy storage system with the government’s blessing. However, the experiment was not without its own complications.

“Because of the limitation on the floating platform, we need to actually stack more efficiently so that we can minimize the footprint of the energy storage. That’s the first challenge that our team is looking [at] right now. The second challenge is also using the water, seawater, to cool down the battery.”

Regardless of floating battery storage success, Tay said Envision is also focused on diversification overall, and in Singapore’s case, diversification is important due to the country’s land shortage. “I think it is a good strategy to diversify, whether it’s from rooftop solar to floating solar to buying energy from a neighbouring country.”

When he considers the evolution towards smart cities, Tay highlights the importance of incorporating energy storage when developing solar power within a facility as another way to diversify. Already, he sees big shifts in smart development. Citing a transferral from traditional centralised power systems we are seeing a move away from a “just sell” mentality, “to maybe a small householdࢀ¦actually achieving a neutral energy saving from the sun. This is part of the Smart City vision I believe in Singapore, and across the region, using as energy storage to complement solar plants or solar rooftop.”

Considering CEO Zhang Lei has been quoted saying that he wants to lead the ‘fifth Industrial Revolution through green manufacturing,”; we asked Tay how Envision is moving towards this goal. He shared one of the focuses now is to drive more green hydrogen utilization in the coming years. “What we are trying to do is to work with the several companies in this project so that we can actually drive more utilization of this green hydrogen in the future.”

Tay declares that Envision are at the forefront of hydrogen use, supporting the energy transition of end-users, from utilities and oil and gas consumers, to cleaner alternatives. Meanwhile, they are supporting a fundamental shift in the power sector, changing the behaviour of key consumer groups from buying green energy from a traditional utility. When asked about the direction of Envision and how hydrogen and other energy sources will cohabitate within power systems, Tay said they believe that in the future, apart from just relying on renewable energy, having a diverse mix of clean power alternatives will be the way forward for most countries.

Author: Melissa Fitzgerald, Content Manager, Enlit Asia

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