Is there an industry in the world that would attract as much attention of scientists, inventors, researchers as renewable energy? Why does the whole world explore this issue?
Indeed, today it is hard to find an industry that attracts more attention than the renewable energy industry. Energy itself is a very important entity in our life. The development of humanity constantly increases the need for energy. Nevertheless, most of the energy is not used properly. Thus, the constant increase in energy efficiency reduces energy losses, but the increasing demand for it actually leaves the level of energy use at a constant level in the world. The cultural development of humankind has led to an understanding that the use of energy in the way that is used today has devastating nature grievance. However, the main thing is that humanity has finally become more responsive to the opportunities they leave to its descendants. Consequently, all research, all developments, all human efforts are aimed at reducing their negative impact on nature using energy and the elimination of already inflicted damage.
Which of the discoveries made last year seem important and disruptive to you?
Honestly speaking, not a single discovery, from those really verified, seem to be super-breakthrough and ready for applying. But we can talk about the trends that are observed in the field of renewable energy. Yes, it is a search for more efficient and/or flexible applications of photoelectric converters. These are transparent photocells, ultra-thin photocells and flexible photocells. There is a intention for scientists to create photocells that would generate hydrogen in the direct transformation or dispose carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. I cannot say however that this is our reality today.
What are the most long-awaited inventions related to renewable energy?
The increase share of renewable energy in the world is already a lot larger than in Ukraine. Consequently, the short-term and long-term accumulation of energy is the biggest problem in the world. The whole world is working to solve this problem. In the short-term accumulation, everyone expects the development of technologies that will reduce the cost of elements` accumulation. There is an intense search for new types of batteries that would have bigger capacity, greater resource usage, lower recharge losses and lower mass- volume/power characteristics. In addition, the world is actively seeking for new and developing existing technologies for the production, storage, transport and use of hydrogen.
Can you predict when these discoveries will take place?
All these fields of research are one way or another directed to one indicator – levelized cost of energy (LCOE). It is impossible to say what kind of discovery will have the greatest impact on this indicator, but it can be argued that this indicator for battery energy storage systems (BESS) will have reached the acceptable level by 2023-2025. As for the systems of seasonal energy accumulation using hydrogen, I will estimate this term by 2035.
What revolutions, fundamental technological breakthroughs can global energy expect?
I suppose that we should expect revolutionary breakthroughs in the field of photo and thermo-hydrogen transformations. Direct utilization of solar radiation into hydrogen will make it possible to bring closer demand and supply of energy – first in time, and then in space.
How will the world change after these revolutionary inventions?
By the point of singularity in technology forecasting, which in my opinion will be in 2050, I see the disappearance of energy as a commodity. This is my dream idea. People will have simple and affordable tools that will help to take energy they need. It is hard for us to believe it, but today we do not pay for the air, it just exists.
Should we expect Ukrainian scientists and researchers to contribute to the development of renewable technologies and energy storage?
Absolutely. We have to work on it. Many talented young Ukrainians leave the country. It depends on the conditions. If we create acceptable conditions, I am sure that young people will work and, most importantly, give birth to ideas here in Ukraine.
Which fields of research do you consider as the most promising ones?
Ukraine is far behind in science from the world. So, it is inappropriate for us to do research of the present. We have only one chance to catch up with the world – outdistance it at once. It means today we have to work on the research for which technologies in the world have not yet been formed and we need to do this in parallel with the world, constantly exchanging experience. So today we have to work for tomorrow, on technologies that will appear in 5-10 years. I consider such fields is technology of hydrogen energetics. These are photo/thermochemical methods of hydrogen production, methods of its long-distances transportation, methods of its long- term preservation in large volumes.
Where in Ukraine do people work on ideas and developments in the field of energy?
Ukraine has a Renewable Energy Institute in the Kyiv Polytechnic Institute. There is also National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. There are separate self-initiating teams. I suppose, however, it is business which has to take the main responsibility for the development.
Where do future Ukrainian researchers study now – those who will develop science and energy technology in a few years?
There are quite big problems with this since science in Ukraine was completely underfunded. However, the authorities have a clear understanding that the main driver should not be only more funding, but the change of the system of education and research institutes that need to work on applied results, which are in demand in the industry. I believe that the reform in education and science should take place in the next 5 years.
Which types of research organizations do you see as the most effective ones: RnD of energy corporations, university research laboratories, state research centers in the Academy of Sciences, hackathons, organized by businesses, international cooperation projects?
It all depends on the scale of the problems that are being solved. Our world now is full of information exchange and collaboration possibilities without any boundaries, so I think the most effective are the corporate RnD centers and any systems organized by business that is interested in it. Practice shows us good examples of government investment in science, as is done in China, but I do not think it is possible to reproduce it in another political environment.
What are the main research fields KNESS RnD works on?
Today KNESS RnD Center has two strategic directions: developments in the field of energy conversion with the use of power electronics and research in the field of production and storage/transport of hydrogen. As for power electronics, today we are in the active phase of developing a powerful centralized inverter with a decentralized system of tracker searches for maximum power (MPPT) points. We develop digitalization of photovoltaic stations: these are smart boxes of connections, and the central controller of the PVPP, and SCADA system with the implementation of remote control functions.
Special attention should paid by us to the predictive modeling of the PVPP to ensure, in the nearest future, responsibility for resolving PVPP unbalances in various segments of the electricity markets. We have plans to develop a powerful converter, which will be used in BESS systems with a common DC bus and DC inserts between Ukrainian and European systems. In hydrogen technology area, we study the pattern of world research very attentively. Today we are building a chemical laboratory and our researches will focus on the thermochemical methods of hydrogen production and on the chemical methods of its preservation.
What is the work structure of your research center?
Work in the RnD Center is based on the individual projects implementation. We do not try to be a star in the team – we build a team of stars. Our team is very young and strives for self-development and training. The organizational structure is completely flexible. Departments are conditional. Individual cross-functional teams perform all project implementation functions. Team leaders are functionally subordinated to the head of the project management office. Project implementation has clear goals and deadlines. According to the results of the projects, there is always a significant bonus. Therefore, money is paid for real results.
What specialists would you like to hire?
Nowadays we are looking for additional specialists in the field of power electronics, programmers- controllers, specialists in the field of hydrogen, physics and heating engineering, electrical engineer. However, today the team is very powerful and capable of solving complex strategic tasks of the company.