Demand-driven production of liquid fuels from regenerative energy sources is a major element of the energy turnaround. Production of synthetic fuels from solar energy and carbon dioxide extracted from air is the objective of the SOLETAIR project started now by INERATEC, a spinoff of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), in cooperation with Finnish partners. Together, the partners plan to take into operation the first chemical pilot plant worldwide. It is so compact that it fits into a ship container and produces gasoline, diesel, and kerosene from regenerative hydrogen and carbon dioxide.
The plant consists of three components. The direct air capture unit developed by the Technical Research Center of Finland (VTT) extracts carbon dioxide from air. An electrolysis unit developed by Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) produces the required hydrogen by means of solar power. A microstructured, chemical reactor is the key component of the plant and converts the hydrogen produced from solar power together with carbon dioxide into liquid fuels. This reactor was developed by KIT. The compact plant was developed to maturity and is now being commercialized by INERATEC.
“Projects, such as SOLETAIR, are essential for the success of the energy turnaround,” Professor Thomas Hirth, Vice President for Innovation and International Affairs of KIT, says. “Commissioning of this pilot plant is an example of successful transfer of KIT’s research innovations to industry.” INERATEC GmbH is a spinoff of KIT and develops, constructs, and sells compact chemical plants for various gas-to-liquid and power-to-liquid applications. The spinoff is supported under the EXIST research transfer program of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy.
A new model developed by Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) shows how an electricity system mainly based on solar and wind works in all regions of the world. It shows the functioning of an electricity system that fulfils the targets set by the Paris agreement by using only renewable energy sources.
The global Internet of Energy Model visualizes a 100 percent renewable energy system (100%RE) for the electricity sector for 2030. It can do this for the entire world which, in the model, has been structured into 145 regions, which are all visualised, and aggregated to 9 major world regions.
“With the simulation, anyone can explore what a renewable electricity system would look like. This is the first time scientists have been able to do this on a global scale.” says Christian Breyer, LUT Solar Economy Professor and a leading scientist behind the model.
The model is designed to find the most economical solution for a renewable electricity system. The model shows how the supply of electricity can be organised to cover the electricity demand for all hours of the year. This means that best mix of renewable energy generation, storage and transmission components can be found to cover the electricity demand, leading to total electricity cost roughly between 55 and 70 euros per megawatt-hour for all 9 major regions in the world.
But the story does not end here. The researchers have ambitious goals to develop the model further. Future upgrades will go from looking only at the electricity sector to showing the full energy sector, including heat and mobility sectors. The model will also describe how to transition from the current energy system towards a fully sustainable one.
According to the researchers the model debunks myths about what renewables can and cannot achieve. One of the myths is that a fully renewable energy system cannot possibly run stable for all hours of the year, due to the intermittent character of solar and wind energy. Another myth is the idea that without large base load generation capacities, such as coal or nuclear plants, an electricity system cannot work. According to the researchers, both of these are incorrect and the facts can be checked from the model.
“My hope is that we can finally stop debating about these myths. The visualisation shows exactly how a fully renewable electricity system operates. So let’s just build it,” emphasizes Pasi Vainikka, Principal Scientist from VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd.
Transparency of the data and research is very important for the researchers. Anyone can download the result data for further inspection. The publications based on the data are available online.
“We want the model to give every citizen the chance to familiarise themselves with a renewable energy system. Increased knowledge usually lowers the resistance towards new developments,” says Vainikka.
Researchers hope that this can facilitate fact-based discourse on global energy transition.
“Every country in the world has to find pathways to achieve the Paris agreement targets and to avoid stranded assets. This model can provide the help for policy-makers, industrial decision-makers and societal stakeholders to do that,” emphasizes Breyer.
Professor Breyer will present the simulation for the first time on Friday the 4th at the World Clean Energy Conference (WCEC) hosted by the United Nations in Geneva.
Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) (in Finnish: until 2003 Lappeenrannan teknillinen korkeakoulu, LTKK, and from 2003 Lappeenrannan teknillinen yliopisto, LTY) was established in 1969.
The university campus is situated on the shore of lake Saimaa, about 7 kilometres away from the city center. In the 1950s and 1960s, the Finnish government made plans to establish the University of Eastern Finland in Lappeenranta, but in the end it was decentralized in three cities: Lappeenranta, Kuopio, and Joensuu. Only departments of engineering were located in Lappeenranta at that time. The Department of Business Administration was established and teaching of economics began in 1991.
Nowadays, LUT’s strategic focus areas are green energy and technology, the creation of sustainable competitiveness and operation as a hub of international Russian relations. Being located near the eastern boundary of Finland, the university also offers comprehensive know-how related to Russia. Furthermore, LUT cooperates closely with business life, and next to the university lies Technology Centre Kareltek. LUT is state run and state funded, like all other universities in Finland.
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