Innovation

Decarbonisation, decentralisation, digitalisation – the profound changes in the European energy system are continuing to progress. And the mobility change towards environmentally friendly transport systems is picking up speed.

Some of our overriding goals are integration of renewable energy and a focus on energy services. Innovation, research and development play an essential, pace-setting role in the company.

We are convinced that in the coming decades, the world will become greatly electrified with the help of renewable energy sources, and that humanity is heading for an all-electric society. For this reason we are working intensively on technical and economic solutions for a reliable, affordable and environmentally friendly energy supply. And we are participating in European and Austrian research projects on the future of electrical energy. Among other things, we are intensely concentrating on the topics of CO2-free hydrogen, smart electricity storage and blockchain technology.

The priorities in our innovation work

For us, smart energy management means that we shape the electricity system of the future in cooperation with the consumers, who are increasingly also becoming producers. Our goal is solutions that bring added benefits for both sides.

First steps in blockchain technology

After successfully building up know-how in the application fields of blockchain technology on the energy markets in a first pilot project in 2017, now a number of additional pilot projects are being implemented. As part of the ENERCHAIN consortium, a technological standard is being developed for processing OTC transactions on the European wholesale electricity market. In addition, together with Salzburg AG we have started two blockchain pilot projects: for private photovoltaic systems on multi-party apartment buildings (renter electricity) and decentralised storage optimisation. Moreover, in a Eurelectric task force we are analysing several blockchain applications.

The first virtual large power plant

We view increasing flexibility as one of the pillars of the energy revolution. And so, with the VERBUND Power Pool we are operating the first virtual large power plant in Austria. Its capacity roughly corresponds to that of the main stage of the Kaprun storage power plant. In this way we can intelligently pool and market the flexibility of usage, generation and storage by industrial and commercial customers. By doing so, the companies can reduce their energy costs or generate additional revenues.

The home of the future

With the VERBUND Eco Home we offer private households an intelligent, expandable Smart Home solution for the home of the future, which offers considerably more comfort and security. We are also participating in the European research project FLEXICIENCY , which will run until 2019, on the topic of the smart home. Here, new services for consumers are being developed and tested, and the European market is being planned. In 2017, Austria's demonstration operation was successfully started.

Efficient energy usage in the EU

The European Commission-supported BENEFFICE project, of which we are a partner, is seeking solutions for motivating various customer groups to use energy efficiently. Various incentive programmes are being developed and tested, based on analyses of usage.

Efficiency network works

VERBUND Eco Net, a new kind of energy saving network for industrial operations and bulk consumers, was successfully concluded in the spring of 2018. The participating companies increased their energy efficiency by 10,3 % and lowered their CO2 emissions by 10.6 %.

 

The future of the energy supply is renewable. Already today, almost 100% of VERBUND electricity comes from hydropower and wind power. And we are working on completely CO2-neutral electricity generation in the medium term. Sustainable technology and new methods of generation – in short: Smart Generation – are the focus of our innovative work, which concentrates on hydropower and wind power.

Blue Battery on the Blue Danube

To be able to compensate better for fluctuations in the transmission grid, we are planning large-scale battery storage at our Wallsee-Mitterkirchen power plant on the Danube. The Blue Battery project, a combination of a hydropower plant and a lithium ion battery, is intended to utilise synergies and improve network services. We would like to start construction on the large-scale storage battery yet this year.

Digitalisation of hydropower

In addition, two digitalisation initiatives in the area of hydropower are underway: The "Digital Workforce Management" project deals with digitalised support of the administrative and operative work processes, to implement improvement potential in the existing systems and to make new, mobile methods possible. In the "Digital Hydro Power Plant" project, tests at a pilot power plant should help to identify new digital technologies suitable for hydropower, which can in the future be used to support operations and ultimately to profitably increase efficiency.

Comprehensive protection for fish

As we implemented the EU Water Framework Directive, we helped further the cutting edge of technology with our research. Here the focus is on details of comprehensive protection for fish and in particular the migratory behaviour of domestic fish. The migratory patterns of the animals in a branched river system are analysed with the help of special antennas. Recently we examined the effects on fish of passage through a turbine by means of special sensors.

Wind turbines on a smartphone

Regarding our wind turbines, we are concentrating on digital maintenance of our wind farms. The workflow was optimised, from planning the service assignments to carrying out troubleshooting, and integrated into the existing operational management software. In the future, service technicians will be able to call up detailed information for troubleshooting on a smartphone or tablet, directly at the wind turbine. Inspection logs including documentation of faults will be processed digitally.

Another focus is unforeseen icing on our wind turbines. This causes unplanned downtimes and curtails electricity generation. This is why we have started the ICE-CONTROL project in cooperation with experts. Special ice detectors measure the surface temperatures and thickness of ice layers directly on the rotor blade. By the spring of 2019, complex prediction models will have been developed.

 

The energy revolution calls for increased efforts for the inter-regional power grid as well. Our independent subsidiary Austrian Power Grid AG (APG) is therefore banking increasingly on research and innovation, or for short: Smart Grid.

Analysis of Big Data

With the EN2VA project, we are developing a tool to be able to visualise large quantities of data better or to portray their mutual dependencies more exactly. Among other things, this method will be used for our ten-year development plan, in the area of balancing energy, and for energy efficiency issues.

Better predictions of solar electricity

In the WEDDA-S project, a system has been developed to further improve predictions of photovoltaic output. To do this, Austria was subdivided into different regions, so that predictions for the individual clusters can be made much more accurately and relationships can be analysed better.

Intelligent maintenance

To assess the condition of our transmission lines without shutting them off, we use a multicopter. The unmanned, remote-controlled flying device is programmed for certain flight routes by using GPS, and with its integrated camera it takes aerial photos of overhead lines and substations. This saves time and money on maintenance.

The global industrial sector is researching concrete options for reducing its CO2 emissions. For steel production, oil refining and even the chemical and food industries, this calls for completely new technologies. The prerequisite is an adequate supply of renewable energy. For this reason we have initiated the H2FUTURE project, a European flagship project which we are coordinating.

Green energy for industry

Globally speaking, the steel industry is one of the largest CO2 emitters. Therefore, with the H2FUTURE project and in cooperation with five partners, we are building one of the world’s largest and most modern PEM electrolysis facilities at voestalpine’s Linz location. This electrolyzer, which operates with proton exchange membrane technology and should achieve a record efficiency value of 80 %, will with the aid of renewable electricity generate up to 1,200 cubic metres of green, CO2-free hydrogen per hour.

Beginning in the spring of 2019, for two years the use of green hydrogen and green oxygen in the various processes of steel production will be intensely studied, with the goal of replacing fossil energy sources over the middle to long term. In addition, the 6 megawatt plant will be deployed on the electricity balancing market. The project is being supported by the European Commission’s Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU).

In general, storable hydrogen is versatile: as a raw material for industry as in Linz, but also as a fuel for mobility or as an energy source for the electricity and gas supply. So green hydrogen is a perfect example of coupling different sectors, which can lead to decarbonisation of the energy sector, industry and transportation.

Transferability is being assessed

Not only that, but with Hydrogen Europe and the Hydrogen Initiative Flagship Region Austria (WIVA), together with partners in research and development, energy supply and industry, we are investigating possibilities for extending CO2-free hydrogen production to other industrial sectors.

Clean, quietly and intelligently - that's how we could move in the future: with electric vehicles. Austria in particular is predestined for this, since already two thirds of the national electricity is obtained from renewable sources. This is why we at VERBUND are working intensively on the electromobility of the future, on Smart Mobility, as well as on coupling the energy and mobility sectors.

Pioneer in electromobility

VERBUND is a forerunner in Austria regarding electromobility: Already in 2009 the platform Austrian Mobile Power was called into being, to which more than 35 members belong today: from leading companies from the energy sector to automotive engineering manufacturers and systems providers and on to advocacy groups. In 2012, along with Siemens, we founded the E-Mobility Provider Austria GmbH & Co KG, which adopted the brand name SMATRICS and offers attractive e-mobility packages to companies and private customers.

E-mobility in red-white-red

The company has by now equipped Austria with a nationwide network of 435 charging stations for e-cars, of which 210 are quick-charging points for a full charge within 20 minutes. With VERBUND electricity, 100 % of which comes from hydropower, e-mobilised persons are also travelling in a very environmentally friendly way.

European cooperation

In order to help electromobility to a breakthrough, we are involved in European research and innovation projects. We are working especially intensively on establishing a high-level charging infrastructure for e-cars to make long-distance travel possible. As part of EVA+ we are making Austria’s network of quick-charging stations denser and building up the connection to Italy. With the ultra-E project, by the end of 2018 a total of 25 ultra-quick charging stations with a charging output of up to 350 kW will be installed, 21 of which will be in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, and 4 in Austria. As part of the e-via flex-e project, 14 high-output charging stations will be established along corridors of the trans-European transport network, 8 of which will be in Italy, 2 in France and 4 in Spain.

Since the high charging output will be a challenge for the power grid, with the SYNERG-E project we are installing and operating a total of 10 local buffer storage facilities at ultra-quick charging locations in Austria and Germany, which will make the necessary charging output of 0.5 MW in each case available. This will significantly reduce the spikes in the network load and considerably reduce the grid costs.

Electrically operated fleet of trucks

What’s more, the LEEFF project (Low Emission Electric Freight Fleets) has been started: Here, together with partners, a master plan for the electrification and operation of a fleet of trucks will be worked out by the spring of 2019, to be used for deliveries in metropolitan areas.

New services for e-mobility customers

Lastly, with theNeMo project, we and our partners are researching new services for e-mobility customers. New services for private customers are being developed which should make the charging of e-cars more user-friendly. The spectrum ranges from simpler access to charging stations to the possibility of reserving them.

 

H2FUTURE project video

You can find more information in the Integrated VERBUND Annual Report in the chapter Innovation, Research and Development.

Contact

Ansprechpartner Wolfgang Pell Wolfgang Pell

Head of Innovation

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