What has the joint Norddeutsche EnergieWende 4.0 underway since late 2016 achieved? What are it’s key aspects and which projects are being promoted? A closer look reveals success across the board.
The four-year, NEW 4.0 project is likely to provide vital impulses for Germany. Funded by the German Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi), this ambitious project points the way towards the energy system of the future. This bright future is expected to start in 2035 and ideally foresees electrical energy from only renewable sources. Around 60 partners from science, industry and politics have networked to form this unique, innovative alliance. Practical pilot applications are demonstrating that the energy transition is feasible and achievable. Meanwhile, no fewer than 100 projects have been initiated and work is already underway on about 25 such projects.
Entering a new energy era
The signals from politics sound euphoric. Frank Horch, Senator for Economics, Transport and Innovation, said the project aims to “strengthen the future of the entire region”. Jens Kerstan, Senator for Environment and Energy, stressed the benefits for Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein: “Excess wind power from Schleswig-Holstein is being used in the city. To do so, we point to intelligent solutions and are testing storage technologies. If they can be implemented on a large scale, that would be a quantum leap for climate protection in the north.” Commenting on the first year of the project, Prof. Dr. Werner Beba, Project Co-ordinator, said: “We are well on the way to achieving our goal of comprehensively demonstrating the feasibility of the energy transition in Schleswig-Holstein and Hamburg.”
Matching supply and consumption
Unlike conventional energy generation, energy from wind turbines is subject to fluctuation. Abundant energy is available in strong winds. But if there is a lull, energy becomes a precious commodity. Enter efficient storage solutions! Even if sufficient wind energy is available, it cannot always be used effectively. Wind turbines frequently have to be turned off because the grid can only transport the amount of electricity that is being consumed.
NEW 4.0 to improve match of supply and demand
Large consumers in particular are being eyed as their energy requirements far exceed those of private households. Thus, various projects aim to link energy consumption as closely as possible to supply. Sector coupling is a viable option and refers to the conversion of surplus electrical energy into stored heat or gas. It can then be used for heating purposes as well as transport and industrial manufacturing. ArcelorMittal Hamburg GmbH is a typical example. A large steel mill is investigating the possibility of switching it’s energy supply to a supply-dependent combination of gas and electricity. When energy supply is plentiful and prices are low, electricity instead of gas would be used to preheat kilns.
Power to heat
Using excess wind energy to generate heat is another example. Vattenfall Wärme in Hamburg’s Karolinenviertel is currently implementing this concept. A 30-year-old boiler there has been converted into a power-to-heat system and can now be operated with excess wind power to generate district heating for residential areas.
The Stadtwerke Flensburg takes a similar approach. As part of the NEW 4.0 project, the city-owned energy supplier is set to replace the existing oil heating systems for district heating with electrical systems. In the event of excess wind energy from wind farms in Schleswig-Holstein, the new system will then switch to electric heating automatically. Electric energy that cannot be fed into the grid can be used to produce district heating saving vast amounts of fossil fuels and without having to shut down wind turbines.
Power to gas
Certain NEW 4.0 projects are focusing on innovative technologies for energy production. The Wind to Gas Energy GmbH & Co. KG recently built a new battery storage unit in Brunsbüttel to ensure network stability and will offset fluctuations in the energy grid at the source. A plant for hydrogen electrolysis will soon be added to the Brunsbüttel facilities as well. This technique can be started and turned off quickly at any time. The 2.4 MW system can be connected to the wind farm and will start operating automatically, when the generated wind energy exceeds demand. The generated gas is then fed directly into the regional gas grid and will be available to households and industry.
More information to improve control
The success of the energy turnaround relies not only on a combination of different forms of renewable energy. Intelligent networking between energy producers and consumers to ensure stable energy supply is also crucial to the turnaround and is based on real-time communication of all data about power generation, demand and network conditions. As part of NEW 4.0, Schleswig-Holstein Netz AG and ARGE Netz GmbH & Co. KG are developing the so-called “ENKO platform” and aim to set up an associated network traffic lights. Data will be gathered to visualize all aspects of the energy network. In just over a year, the NEW 4.0 project has already achieved measurable results and is set to make a sustainable contribution to the north German energy transition.