The increasing use of sustainable sources of electrical power, such as sunlight or wind, helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions and allows to satisfy the mounting energy demand, especially in developing countries.
Several IEC Technical Committees develop international standards for renewable energy systems. These documents, many of which are groundbreaking, help renewable energy systems to operate safely and efficiently, whether on-grid or off-grid. They also facilitate the integration of renewable energy systems in the electrical grid.
The IEC runs four Conformity Assessment (CA) Systems. IECRE (IEC System for Certification to Standards Relating to Equipment for Use in Renewable Energy Applications) is specifically designed for renewable energy systems. It was established in 2014 to provide third-party certification of renewable energy equipment and services. This CA system facilitates the trade of equipment and services in the solar, wind, and marine sectors while maintaining the required level of safety and performance.
Solar photovoltaic energy systems
Wind energy generation systems
Marine energy - Wave, tidal and other water current converters
Solar thermal electric plants
Hydroelectric power has been used for hundreds of years and is today the most important source of renewable energy. New hydro electric plants are being built and existing ones modernized to increase their efficiency and electricity output.
Hydro power plants help maintain constant power quality and stabilize voltage levels by ensuring that there is always the right amount of power available for the continuous transmission and distribution of electricity.
Hydro power comes in all sizes, from large dams and barrages to small micro and pico-hydro stations which can provide energy to remote and rural off-grid locations.
Hydro power is also extensively used for electrical energy storage (EES) on a large scale, so-called pumped storage. Electricity is used to pump water into reservoirs at a higher altitude during periods of low energy demand. When demand is at its highest, the water is piped through turbines situated at lower altitudes and converted back into electricity. Pumped storage is also useful to control voltage levels and maintain power quality, for example when intermittent renewable energy sources such as solar or wind power are connected to the grid.
IEC TC 4 develops standards which specify the design, manufacture, installation, testing, operation and maintenance of hydraulic machines including turbines, storage pumps and pump turbines.
Such standards also serve as the basis for testing and certification of components, devices and systems.
Wind power is generated through moving air masses that drive wind turbines, which transform this kinetic energy into electricity.
Wind power is one of the fastest growing sources of renewable energy. However, since wind does not blow all the time, integrating wind power into existing, sometimes decades old power grids, can be challenging. To accommodate intermittent power sources such as wind requires modernization of grids through the use of information technology. So-called smart grids ensure that power flows continuously and reliably, even when there is no wind in sight.
Wind turbines can also be used as stand-alone off-grid electricity systems. Instead of large commercial wind farms, situated either off-shore or on-shore, smaller devices can generate energy for local or individual consumption.
IEC TC 88 develops international standards which cover for example turbine design, efficiency, output, and abrasion resistance, and enable wind energy systems to interoperate with the conventional grid. These standards are used by the whole wind industry, including buyers, sellers, regulators, insurers, and investors, to measure and compare the performance of wind turbine designs and installations.
Such standards also serve as the basis for testing and certification of components, devices, and systems.
Different technologies are used to generate electricity from sunlight.
Solar photovoltaic systems
Solar energy is produced when sunlight strikes the thin top layer of silicon (or another appropriate material) on a solar panel. A process known as the photovoltaic effect creates an electric current that is captured by the wiring in the solar panel. IEC International Standards help ensure that this happens safely and efficiently.
Solar photovoltaic (PV) generated electricity continues to rapidly expand, both in the developed and developing world. Solar PV systems range from small, rooftop-mounted modules with capacities of a few kilowatts (kWs) to large utility-scale power stations producing hundreds of megawatts (MW). Electricity generated by solar PV can be supplied to end-users in different ways:
PV energy systems can be connected to the power grid. Their electricity is usually complemented by that of other power sources.
PV systems can be used off-grid as stand-alone residential power sources, including for remote rural locations.
Pico-solar systems use small, compact and light-weight PV panels to generate just a few watts of power in small and portable applications (lanterns for instance).
IEC Technical Committee (TC) 82 publishes international standards for PV systems that convert solar energy into electricity, including for all the elements in the entire PV energy chain. It issues a series of technical specifications (TS) which make recommendations for small renewable hybrid systems for rural electrification. The standards series has been recognized by the World Bank and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).
Such standards also serve as the basis for testing and certification of components, devices, and systems.
Solar PV generates direct current (DC) which enables the most energy-efficient electricity use in rural and remote settings. Low voltage direct current (LVDC) is a key future technology for rural electrification. IEC has paved the way for the technology to be standardized so that it can be used safely and efficiently. The IEC Systems Committee for LVDC, SyC LVDC, is identifying gaps where standards are needed. It works closely with many IEC TCs, including TC 82.
Standards also serve as the basis for testing and certification of components, devices, and systems. IEC runs four Conformity Assessment (CA) Systems which verify whether a device, or system follow the requirements in IEC Standards. IECRE and IECEE directly apply to Solar PV systems.
Concentrated solar thermal power
Concentrated solar thermal power (CSP) is generated in solar thermal electric (STE) plants which use various mirror configurations to convert the sun's energy into high-temperature heat. This heat is then channeled through a conventional steam or gas turbine to generate electricity or it is used directly to heat water, oil, molten salt, or produce steam.
Four different types of technologies are used in STE plants:
Solar power tower
Most STE plants employ some form of thermal energy storage, to store heat generated during the day and convert it into electricity at night.
IEC TC 117 develops specifications for STE plants. Standards also serve as the basis for testing and certification of components, devices, and systems.
Oceans have the potential to provide an enormous amount of electricity, which can be harnessed using different marine power generation technologies.
Wave energy is captured directly from surface waves or from pressure fluctuations below the surface.
Tidal energy generated by the moon and the sun's gravitational pull on the earth is converted to electricity in large bridge-like structures.
Ocean current, generated by wind, salinity, the earth's rotation, etc...drives underwater turbines.
Ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) uses the temperature difference between the cooler deep and warmer surface water to generate electricity using a turbine.
With the help of IEC International Standards, an increasing number of marine energy facilities are starting larger scale operations.
IEC TC 114 covers international marine energy standards for all systems that convert marine power into electrical energy. The specifications published by TC 114 enable the safe deployment and performance measurement of marine energy systems, as well as their integration within the electrical grid.
Geothermal power plants pipe hot water or steam through wells that reach deep down to reservoirs underground.The thermal energy is then converted into electricity through different technologies. These plants provide stable production output, unaffected by climatic variations.
Different types of geothermal plants include:
Dry steam power plants which extract very hot steam from reservoirs under the earth.The steam activates turbines that generate electricity.
Geothermal flash steam power plants which use water at temperatures of at least 182 C. High-pressure hot water is turned into steam by using cooler water to lower the pressure. The steam then drives turbines to generate electricity.
Geothermal binary cycle power plants which use water at temperatures as low as 57 C. The thermal energy heats a fluid that turns into steam at low temperatures. This steam is pushed through a turbine to generate electricity. The water never touches the fluid and is re-injected into the well, where it heats up again, closing the cycle.
IEC TC 5 prepares international standards for the turbines and heat pumps used in geothermal energy systems.
Such standards also serve as the basis for testing and certification of components, devices and systems. IEC runs four conformity assessment (CA) systems which determine whether a product or other object corresponds to the requirements contained in IEC standards and specifications.
Standardization and conformity assessment
Conformity assessment for renewable energy
IEC is paving the way for these new technologies by developing and publishing a wide number of standards.
Electricity generating capacity is expanding to meet growing worldwide demand.
Renewable energies represent a fast-growing percentage of electricity generation.
Nuclear power plants (NPPs) produce an important proportion of the world's electricity.
Storing energy is becoming ever more important as our demand for electricity increases.
IEC is forging a path for this global transformation with the required international standards.
Distributed energy resources are a way of increasing energy efficiency and improving grid resilience.
Getting clean and modern electricity to those who need it the most with the help of the IEC.
One of the most important ways of helping us to save energy is by implementing energy efficiency measures.
Renewable energy generates direct current and we use direct current in our homes to power many of our devices, from LED lights to mobile phones.
IEC publications help them to meet the various technical challenges they unavoidably face moving forward.