Decarbonisation, decentralisation, digitalisation – the profound changes in the European energy system are continuing to progress. 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. 

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.

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.

Efficiency network works
VERBUND Eco Net, a new kind of energy saving network for industrial operations and bulk consumers, was started almost three years ago with eight participants. Working jointly with us, within four years the companies can achieve an increase in efficiency that is two to three times as high as the industrial average.


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.

The future of the electricity supply is renewable. Already today, more than 90 % 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.

Machine durability on trial
Due to volatile wind and solar energy in Europe's grid, VERBUND's hydraulic prime movers at storage or pumped storage power plants need to fill in at short notice when there is an electricity shortage, and work at a partial load, even though they were in stand-by mode for a long time before that. Therefore we are investigating the effects of this changed operating performance on the turbine. The goal is to avoid critical operating states and to extend the service life of the paddle wheels. In addition, signs of wear on different materials are being assessed, such as seals or shotcrete, and new materials are being tested.

Fish travel through a screw
We are researching options for creating water body connectivity, in order to achieve the EU Water Framework Directive goals step by step. Since holistic fish protection is coming more and more to the fore, we are analysing the migratory behaviour of various fish species in detail.

In our Styrian power plant Retznei, the HydroConnect Hydropower Screw is in use. This development from Austria makes it possible to connect fish migration in both directions with electricity generation. The fish transport takes place by means of two interlocking screws. The inner one transports the animals upwards, while the outer screw, working in the opposite direction, allows them to descend. At the same time, the rotation of 20 revolutions per minute is used for electricity generation.

Wind turbines under scrutiny
With our wind farms, we concentrate on operational optimisation under icing conditions. Because unforeseen icing leads to unplanned standstill periods and curtails electricity generation. This is why we have started the ICE-CONTROL project in cooperation with experts. High-resolution camera systems monitor ice formation, and additionally installed ice detectors measure the surface temperatures and the thickness of ice layers directly on the rotor blade. This will make it possible to develop complex prediction models by spring 2019.

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

Electricity transmission is becoming quieter
In collaboration with partners from industry and science, we have developed sound-optimised overhead transmission cables for very high voltage lines and tested them in practice. With these, the corona noises occurring during rainfall could indeed be reduced. The new transmission cables can be implemented in future new buildings and renovations.

Solar winds and the power grid
Another focus is a project for measuring direct currents in transformers in the high and very high voltage grid Building on this, a simulation model was developed with which the direct currents can now also be calculated. By this means, for the first time in central Europe, the theoretical predictions about geomagnetically induced direct currents caused by solar winds can be evaluated. The results demonstrated surprisingly high quasi direct current values which are triggered by the earth's magnetic field. A forecasting and alerting system is currently being developed in order to be able to react to solar winds quickly in the high voltage grid.

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 climate is changing progressively. Consequently, the industrial sector is researching concrete possibilities to reduce its CO2 emissions. For steel production, oil refining, and also for the chemical and the food industry, this calls for completely new technologies. The prerequisite for this is an adequate supply of renewable energy. For this reason we have initiated the H2FUTURE project – a European flagship project. Here energy providers, the steel industry, technology forges and research partners are working hand in hand.

Six partners, one goal: green hydrogen from green electricity.
Together we will be testing and demonstrating the innovative production of hydrogen from renewable energy sources over the next years for sustainable steel production. In addition, we are exploring its potential for use in other hydrogen-intensive industries. At the same time, the facility should render network services – and therefore serve multiple interests.

A pilot plant in Linz, Austria, transforms green electricity into hydrogen by means of electrolysis. The PEM (polymer electrolyte membrane) procedure used here is easily scalable and responsive. This makes it ideal for use with dynamic industrial processes as well as for network services.

The amply dimensioned plant with an output of 6 megawatts is used twofold:

  • From green electricity it produces green hydrogen and oxygen for industrial processes.
  • And it is available as a reserve capacity for the transmission grid when necessary.

This is becoming ever more important in an increasingly complex energy system with volatile electricity production from solar and wind power. Demand Response capacities help to balance out the energy flow and ease the load on the grids.

For the energy future, research on green hydrogen technologies will play a key role. With H2FUTURE we are collaboratively taking a significant step towards a long-term transformation in the direction of sustainable industrial processes in Europe.

Clean, quiet and intelligent - that's how we could move in the future: with electric vehicles. Austria in particular is predestined for this, since two thirds of the national electricity is obtained from renewable sources. This is why we at VERBUND are working intensively on the electro-mobility of the future, on Smart Mobility.

Pioneer in electromobility
VERBUND is a forerunner in Austria regarding electro-mobility: Already in 2009 the platform Austrian Mobile Power was called into being, to which more than 30 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 charging stations for e-cars, of which 200 are quick-charging points. It is now possible to recharge electricity with the common plug types within a radius of 60 kilometres. 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 intensely involved in European research projects. After successfully commencing operations with 65 quick-charging stations as part of the Central European Green Corridors (CEGC) project, we have been working on expansion of a high-level charging infrastructure for electric vehicles in the context of two other innovative European projects. As part of EVA+ on the one hand, Austria’s network of quick-charging stations is being made denser and the connection to Italy built up. On the other hand, with ULTRA-E, the cornerstone is being laid for the next generation of electric vehicles: Within the next years, four ultra-quick charging stations with an output of up to 350 kW will be established in Austria, in addition to the network of 50 kW quick-chargers.

For the project NeMo, along with partners we are exploring 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.

The project CROSSING BORDERS was successfully concluded. Within its framework, 30 quick-charge stations were established between Bratislava and Munich. The project LEEFF (Low Emission Electric Freight Fleets) has started, which involves working out – along with partners – a master plan for the electrification and operation of a fleet of trucks to be used for delivery in metropolitan areas.

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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