“When I’m walking through the city, I see small solar power systems all around me with my mind’s eye. This is because the wafer-thin HeliaFilm will make it possible to use facades, windows and vehicle roofs in addition to roofs on houses to produce electricity.”
Dr Claus Linnemann is our specialist for new technologies relating to the use of wind and solar power
The energy that powers our world will soon be generated primarily using renewable energy sources. In this section, we explore several good ideas that will ensure a reliable and affordable energy supply in the future.
innogy is already one of the world’s largest operators of offshore wind farms. We want to further expand our activities in the fields of both offshore and onshore wind farms in the future. We are currently building new wind farms that have a combined capacity of several hundred megawatts.
And we round off our commitment to environmentally friendly power generation with projects revolving around other types of renewable energy sources such as solar power, hydropower and biogas.
Wind power. Onshore wind turbines still generate the majority of our wind power today. However, an increasing number of wind farms are being built in the open sea. These offshore wind farms will be accepted by a larger number of people, since they are located far away from cities and villages. Furthermore, offshore wind farms generate more electricity than the ones onshore, since the wind is much stronger and constant in the high seas.
innogy has been operating offshore wind turbines since 2004. We have already gained a great deal of experience in the offshore industry, thanks to our planning, building and operational activities. We collaborate with partners to operate wind farms off the coasts of Germany, Belgium and the UK, and are currently developing additional sites. For example, we are involved in the construction of the Galloper Wind Farm off the British coast, and the Nordsee One offshore wind farm off the German coast.
Nordsee One is being constructed to the north of Juist Island and is grand in scale. It consists of 54 wind turbines that have a combined capacity of 332 megawatts and will be capable of meeting the energy needs of around 400,000 households from the end of 2017. The European Union is funding Nordsee One as part of its NER300 funding programme for innovative, environmentally friendly technologies.
We have launched the VIBRO research project in collaboration with partners in Cuxhaven in order to reduce installation times and noise emissions during the construction of offshore wind farms. The findings of the project have shown that vibratory pile driving is an efficient alternative to the conventional method of hammering piles into the seabed when installing offshore foundations.
Once the wind turbines are finally in operation, they will run as reliably as possible, with the maximum possible service life and yield. This will be made possible by what are called condition monitoring systems (CMSs).
These systems monitor the wind turbines and deploy sensors to capture large volumes of data, for example, regarding pressure, temperature and vibrations. It is no longer possible for humans to evaluate this data ‘manually’. Instead, this is a task for special software solutions that we develop for this particular purpose. These software solutions identify any anomalies hidden in the measured values. This makes it possible to detect any damage early on and ideally even prevent it.
“Our sophisticated methods of analysing the data from our wind turbines enable us to detect any damage very early on, long before it causes downtimes.”
Dr Kirsten Theobald’s aim is to make the use of wind power as efficient as possible
Solar power. Photovoltaics is the second most rapidly growing branch of the renewable energies sector, after wind energy. Our subsidiary BELECTRIC designs turnkey solutions for large-scale battery storage and develops solar power plants for open spaces. The company currently operates and maintains solar plants that have a combined capacity of over one gigawatt. We are pursuing photovoltaics primarily in our core European markets, but we also focus on growth markets in the Middle East, North Africa, India, South America and US.
But do we always need to deploy special systems in order to generate solar power? What if we could use every window in a high-rise and every car roof to generate electricity in the future? Heliatek – a spinoff of the TU Universität Dresden and Ulm University – that counts innogy among its shareholders is pursuing this vision.
Heliatek produces an extremely thin, flexible and durable film that converts sunlight into electricity. Production of the film is environmentally friendly, since the film is made using an organic material. The film, called HeliaFilm, can be attached to glass surfaces, concrete facades and vehicles and delivers high yields even when it is attached to vertical surfaces. We are currently testing HeliaFilm by attaching it to the facades of large fermentation tanks at our biogas plant in Paffendorf, in the city of Bergheim, in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
We are also active in the field of solar thermal power and are involved in the Andasol-3 power plant project in Spain. This power plant gathers sun light using large parabolic mirrors. The thermal energy that is gathered is then used to heat up oil that is used to create steam in a heat exchanger. The steam is used to drive a power generator using a turbine. The power plant supplies electricity to hundreds of thousands of people alongside its predecessors Andasol 1 and 2.
HeliaFilm is a wafer-thin film that converts sun light into electricity. It is capable of generating green electricity even when it is aligned vertically, as it is on the facades of fermentation tanks at our biogas plants in Paffendorf.
Biogas. innogy operates its own biogas plants in order to explore ways of generating as much energy as possible using renewable raw materials. We have commissioned a modern biogas plant in Paffendorf in the city of Bergheim (in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia) that generates energy in an environmentally friendly manner using renewable raw materials. We use a diverse mix of raw materials drawn from products used in the region’s farms, for example, whole-plant, grass and maize silage as well as beets and alfalfa. We also test the use of new energy crops such as cup plants and wild flowers. The raw biogas that is generated is then processed to natural gas quality and fed into the grid in the form of biomethane. This biomethane can be used to supply heat to around 3,300 households.
Biogas plants are more profitable the more reliably they operate. This is why we are carrying out the Visko project in Paffendorf to investigate ways of preventing ‘blockages’ at biogas plants. Such blockages can arise when the substrate – that is, the raw material that is used to power the plant – becomes too viscous. The bacteria cannot do their job properly if the substrate is too viscous, which in turn causes biogas production to come to a halt. We now deploy a measuring system in Paffendorf to continuously check the substrate’s viscosity and detect when it becomes too high. We implement the appropriate countermeasures to prevent downtimes at the plant.
Hydroelectric power. The main benefit of hydroelectric power is that it can be used to generate electricity largely independent of the time of day or weather conditions. innogy operates run-of-the-river and pumped-storage power plants with a combined capacity of around 500 megawatts. These plants harness the energy of flowing rivers and work around the clock very reliably. We have over 77 turbines at almost 30 sites in Germany alone, for example, at the Moselle, Ruhr and Saar rivers. We operate 21 of such power plants in the UK. We also operate hydroelectric power plants in France, Spain, Portugal and Switzerland.
Our plants need to be environmentally friendly. This is why we are continuously investing in researching and developing hydroelectric power plants. We often work with partners to implement our projects. We are collaborating with the state of North Rhine-Westphalia on a pilot project at the Unkelmühle power plant, for example, to test new installations that will better protect the local fish population. We are also collaborating with the Büro für Umweltplanung, Gewässermanagement und Fischerei (Bureau for environmental planning, water management and fishing) to investigate how fish orientate themselves and find their way when they are near intake screens at hydroelectric power plants. Intake screens protect power plant turbines like a kind of sieve that catches debris – and also protects fish from drifting into the turbines. We are currently using a water channel – set up by the Institute of Hydraulic Engineering and Water Resources Management of RWTH Aachen University – to monitor and analyse the behaviour of fish in various flow conditions and when different construction methods are used to build the screens.
The EU-funded AMBER project takes the big picture into account. R&D experts working on the AMBER project investigate how the European river landscape can be further developed while keeping the ecosystem as intact as possible. They also study the effects of various obstacles, such as dams and hydroelectric power plants, that hinder the natural flow of a river. innogy cooperates with around 20 other European partners from the worlds of business and the science on this project.