CHP and on-site renewables ” Energiewende in action

By Steve Hogsdon

What happens in Germany matters to the rest of Europe; not only is it an economic and financial powerhouse, it has also initiated a radical strategy in energy policy. Indeed its Energiewende (energy transition strategy) is being watched around the world.

Although Germany has been pursuing ambitious climate and energy policies for quite a while, the 2011 Energiewende initiative represents a distinct raising of its game to transition away from fossil fuels and nuclear power to renewables and energy efficiency. Greenhouse gas emissions are to be cut by 40% by 2020 and by at least 80% by 2050 ” targets similar to those also set by the UK government.

So what does this mean for CHP/cogeneration and wider decentralized energy? Well, the new CHP plant currently being built by Siemens in Dusseldorf, and scheduled to deliver 300 MW of thermal energy to the local district heating network from 2016, is a fine example of how Germany is planning to increase its use of CHP as part of its larger Energiewende strategy. Siemens aims to operate the gas turbine-based Dusseldorf plant at an overall efficiency of 85%, with a record turbine efficiency of just over 61%, and also generate nearly 600 MW of power.

Germany is already the largest single market for CHP in Europe; accounting for more than 20% of the electricity generated from cogen across the EU-27, but is going to need many more new CHP plants to meet a target of 25% of its own power generation to come from CHP by 2020. So says a new report on the German CHP situation published by the Brussels-based trade association and lobby group COGEN Europe. CHP currently generates around 15% of total power produced in Germany.

The revised target was set just last year in a new CHP Law. The German government hopes to end recent weak growth in CHP development, due to the continuing economic slowdown and unfavourable gas prices, by the payment of higher premiums for electricity generated by plants operating in CHP mode.

The 2012 CHP Law also re-states the principle of priority access to the grid for CHP and gives support for heat networks and energy storage. The cogeneration sector will be assisted by the 2012 Renewable Energy law, which enhances opportunities for biomass-fuelled CHP; and measures that support renewable heat and the micro-CHP.

Maybe Germany should look to its major car manufacturer, BMW, for inspiration? Several of the company’s domestic production facilities are powered by cogeneration plants installed by GE and incorporating gas engines manufactured in Austria by GE Jenbacher. The latest installation, at BMW’s Regensburg factory in Bavaria has been operating an 11 MWe cogeneration plant, incorporating four Jenbacher cogeneration modules, since the start of this year. The cogeneration plant supplies nearly 10 MW of process heat and a third of the total power needed at the factory.

But why stop with CHP? BMW has also taken delivery of four 2.5 MW wind turbines from Nordex to supply a quarter of the power needed at its Leipzig manufacturing plant in eastern Germany, and the company has ambitions to generate most of its on-site power needs from renewables eventually.

Looking outside Germany for the moment, BMW’s car assembly plant in South Carolina, US, famously has been using renewable landfill gas, piped for 6 km from a nearby landfill site, to fuel a CHP plant for a decade now. All of the energy used in the paint shop, and 70% of the total energy used at the site comes from landfill gas-fuelled CHP. The original, 4.4 MW CHP installation has been replaced with a larger and more efficient plant, and the scheme regularly wins awards in the US for technical innovation and sustainability.

BMW seems to be on its own course of transitioning from fossil fuels to renewables and energy efficiency ” Energiewende in action!

Steve Hodgson
Contributing editor, COSPP

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