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Cities are getting smarter, but that, unfortunately, means they’re also consuming more power.
As cities grow larger and the technological interconnectivity of modern infrastructure expands further, powering these smart cities will become an even grander issue.
Over half of the world’s populations live in cities, with reports forecasting that within the next decade, over 60% of global populations will be in these dense urban centers.
Powering these future cities in a way that is effective and sustainable is paramount as engineers and city planners face the task.
Fossil fuels may seem like the easy answer in the old line of thinking, but frankly speaking, even throwing out environmental concerns, fossil fuels have a hard time meeting the supply demands of an exponentially growing populous.
This topic was a hot one at CES 2019 company leaders and city planners as they discussed what the fuel behind cities of the future might be. The answer is likely renewable.
Last year we saw renewable energy investment surpass fossil fuel investment. Countries and cities all over the world are diversifying their energy offerings to protect against shifting prices and fluctuating demand.
For example, Saudi Arabia, an incredibly oil-rich nation just signed off on a $200 billion dollar solar power development plant.
We’ve seen China invest heavily in wind projects as superpowers across the world want to be the top dog in renewable energy technology.
But the problem is, renewables are often dependent on climate, weather, and geography. That makes one solution hard to come by for connected cities that are running 24/7.
That means that not only will the energy sources have to shift from consumable to renewable, but the energy management systems of smart cities will have to shift as well.
Energy grids are already having to be designed for 2-way flow to accommodate consumer solar, and this will likely become more of the norm.
Cities will need ways to track power production and consumption numbers. As renewables play a bigger role, our power sources in smart cities will become less and less centralized.
The big innovation that is going to fuel the cities of the future is that of the smart grid. A network of cables with sensors, nodules, and a variety of other inputs that allow for cities infrastructure and power demand to be monitored in real time.
What first may come as human monitoring will eventually turn into AI monitorings, allowing for the achievement of maximum efficiency.
So then what will the smart cities of the future look like? They’ll be powered off of a mix of energy solutions all managed in a decentralized power grid network.
Efficiency and sustainability will be the key metrics in choosing a solution as the modern city continues to evolve.