In addition to sunlight water and wind biogas is a regenerative source of energy that contributes to saving fossil resources. Germany is home to around 7100 biogas plants including 796 as of 2011 in Baden-Württemberg. In 2010 these facilities produced 11 per cent of the electricity generated from renewables in Germany. Energy-rich methane is the major constituent of biogas and is produced when organic compounds are broken down by bacteria in the absence of oxygen.
Chemical energy is stored in the material used for packaging carpets and so on. Some of this energy can be recycled from discarded products. Every year the Thermische Restabfallbehandlungs- und Energieerzeugungsanlage TREA Breisgau Thermal Residual Waste Treatment and Energy Generation Facility located in the Breisgau industrial estate close to Freiburg converts around 170000 t of residual waste into electricity. Dr. Holger Heinig COO of TREA Breisgau gives us some insights into a process that harnesses heat and steam and he also talks about future prospects for the cogeneration of power and heat.
On the basis of calculations for 36 countries in Europe and Northern Africa the German Advisory Council on the Environment SRU concludes that a power supply completely based upon renewable sources by 2050 is achievable at average costs of 65 Mwh.
What can we do with all the waste produced by private households? One possible solution is to feed it into a fridge-sized tank in the cellar or garage that can convert waste into electricity. Dr. Sven Kerzenmacher and Dr. Johannes Gescher from the University of Freiburg are hoping that one day such a vision will be made possible through the use of bacteria. The two researchers work with so-called exoelectrogenic microorganisms which they put into batteries. What stage of development have bacterial fuel cells reached?
The importance of hydrogen as an energy carrier is expected to increase considerably over the next twenty years and play a key role in the worlds energy supply by 2050. An industrial sector offering technology infrastructure and services related to the use of hydrogen will evolve alongside this growth. The Biotechnology Forum in Freiburg on 19th September will focus on the potential future role of biotechnologically produced hydrogen.
Renewable energies do not come out of nowhere. The sustainable cultivation of firewood requires land for plantation. The main criticism of the use of land for the production of renewable energies is that the production of renewable resources is in strong opposition to the production of human food. The forestry scientist Janine Fischbach and her colleagues at the University of Freiburg are investigating ways to avoid a plate petrol tank dilemma.
An Airbus A321 will be flying between Hamburg and Frankfurt to test biofuel on scheduled flights over the course of six months. On this service, one engine will be using a fuel blend containing 50 percent biosynthetic kerosene. The key objective of this project is to conduct a long-term test during which the impact of biofuels on the maintenance and efficiency of jet engines can be investigated.
In the future the Swiss company MYKOTOWN GREENTECH AG will focus on sustainably produced fuels and regenerative energies. The company is thus continuing its journey towards the production of biological and ecological plants using mycorrhizal fungi as well as tapping new fields of business.
In 2015, almost a third of Germany's electricity came from wind, sun and biomass. We need to continue reducing CO2 emissions to become even less dependent on fossil fuels such as coal and petroleum, and thus make electricity generation even more climate friendly. Baden-Württemberg has set an ambitious target for the shift in direction from nuclear and fossil fuels to renewable energy sources: reducing current energy consumption by 50% and replacing 80% of the energy used with energy generated from renewable sources, thus reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 90%.
As a classical cross-sectional technology biotechnology has huge potential to develop sustainable innovations in these areas. BIOPRO Baden-Württemberg GmbH is planning to focus more and more on tapping this potential to make it useable in the areas of environmental protection and regenerative energy as well as in the cleantech sector.
On the one hand, a bioeconomy relies on renewable resources to meet society’s need for food, energy and industrial products. On the other, it emphasises the role of biogenic material flows. The bioeconomy model is expected to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels in the long term. In order to implement the shift from a fossil-based economy to a biobased economy on the regional level, the Baden-Württemberg government launched the Bioeconomy Research Strategy in summer 2013.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are largely responsible for the greenhouse effect and thus for climate change. A reduction in CO2 emissions is therefore at the very top of the international political agenda. Trials are running in parallel to explore underground sequestration of CO2 from power stations, thereby removing it from the atmosphere. It would at first sight seem paradoxical to wish to use energy-poor, inert CO2 molecules. Considerable research and development efforts in recent years have led to new and innovative CO2-recycling technologies and a vision of a CO2 economy.
We talk about bioenergy, but what do we actually mean? The term bioenergy refers to renewable energy produced from material of biological origin. But is the term really exact? Does it create false expectations? “Bio” is often associated with something that is ecological, environmentally friendly and clean. Perhaps “energy from biomass” would be more appropriate? It’s a bulkier term than bioenergy, but also much more neutral.
Alternative engines and fuels for cars of the future still lack technical maturity and are not yet competitive. In the short to medium term, the only way to replace fossil fuel will be other fossil fuels – compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquid petroleum gas (LPG). Biodiesel and ethanol are and will remain for the foreseeable future the only renewable resource alternatives to fossil fuel. As is the case for any other technology, the development of second-generation (2G) biogenic fuels requires a lot of time, money and know-how.
Up until now biotechnology has mainly been focused on the production of enzymes basic chemical and pharmaceutical substances as well as other biobased materials. From now on efforts will be made to exploit the potential of biotechnology at the beginning of value creation chains by improving the access to regenerative resources. Apart from its potential for use as food and animal feed there are two more concepts that focus on the utilisation of biomass the material and energetic use of biomass. The problem is that these two concepts are in competition with each other.
Grass flowers and small bushes are constant features along roadsides they are mowed at regular intervals and either dumped left where they are or less frequently composted. Cuttings like these could contribute to solving the global energy problem and even generate money. However communities that are aiming to turn green waste from roadsides riversides or sports grounds into biogas and hence a renewable source of energy are confronted with practical problems that require precise planning and the assessment of potential gain. Dr. Chantal Ruppert-Winkel and her team from the Centre for Renewable Energy in Freiburg have carried out a survey in a Baden-Württemberg administrative district aimed at identifying the factors that communities need to take into account before setting up renewable energy systems i.e. using previously neglected sources of biogas for generating energy and heat.
Siemens is developing optical measuring techniques that will enable more precise control of biogas facilities in order to increase their efficiency. When biomass is fermented to produce methane, acids are created, and if the acid concentration gets too high, the process collapses and the facility has to be cleaned and started up again.
Food or fuel? Potatoes or electricity? In addition to growing energy crops for biofuel and biogas production, open space solar plants also compete with food production when it comes to land use. Agrophotovoltaics (APV), i.e. the dual use of arable land, can mitigate the conflicting interests of agriculture and open space PV systems. APV-RESOLA is a pilot project aimed at investigating the efficiency of this dual use.
In cooperation with the research unit of the German Technical and Scientific Association for Gas and Water (DVGW), KIT researchers have built a pilot plant in which biogas produced by fermenting residual organic materials can be upgraded to synthetic methane (synthetic SNG). Biobased methane is not only a sustainable energy source for the heating and transport sectors, but also opens up new opportunities for temporary storage of renewable energies.
At the Global Bioeconomy Summit held in Berlin in November 2015, international agendas were adopted that aim to integrate the bioeconomy as part of the development of a sustainable global economy and the fight against man-made global warming. The Summit also called for halting the further deterioration of planetary environmental processes to ensure a sustainable future.
The lack of flexibility with regard to peak demand for electricity – both for consumers and producers – is a well-known problem as far as the production of electricity from renewable resources is concerned. Biogas plants present a particular challenge due to the complex and relatively slow microbial processes involved. A research project called FLEXIZUCKER at the Universities of Ulm and Göttingen aims to make biogas production more flexible and hence the supply of renewable electricity more grid- and market compatible.
Novel biomass materials suitable for various applications need to be developed in order to establish a biobased raw material platform within the bioeconomy. These biobased materials must be able to compete with conventional fossil fuel-based materials, both from a technological and economic point of view. Researchers at the University of Hohenheim are working on the development of conductive carbon materials from biomass with the long-term goal of making the substitution of fossil electrode materials in high-capacitance energy storage systems ready for market.
Storage solutions will be very much in demand as renewables account for a growing share of electricity in the grid. One option – converting fluctuating green electricity into chemical energy carriers or raw materials – looks particularly promising. Scientists at the Centre for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research Baden-Württemberg (ZSW) want to put power-to-X processes into action with a two-pronged strategy.
Microalgae are among the most promising sources of sustainable, carbon-neutral biofuels for the future. They are already being used as feedstock for producing biogas, biodiesel, bioethanol and kerosene, but the associated production methods consume a great deal of energy and are rather costly. Dr. Nikolaos Boukis from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) is working on the development of a sophisticated, thermochemical process with an energy balance that promises to improve the situation.