Technologies for the Energy Transition

"Energiewende": An energy transition. Over 2000 Fraunhofer staff members are researching the widest possible variety of technologies in order to make sure that in the future more electricity enters power grids from renewable sources. One example is the concentrator solar cell.

Fraunhofer Technologies for the Herkulean Energy Transition Project "Energiewende"

The transition of our energy supply is succeeding with more effective and simultaneously more cost-efficient technologies, flexible capacity management and synthetic fuels.

Everyone knows that the objectives defined by the 195 UN members at the Paris climate summit in late 2015 will be difficult to achieve: By 2050 the use of coal, petroleum and natural gas is to be for the most part eliminated and CO2 emissions are to be radically reduced. A Herculean task for all countries, including Germany. But this energy transition also means enormous opportunities for Germany as the home of innovation and for the technology leadership of German industry in the international market. The Fraunhofer Institutes are bundling their outstanding expertise to make sure that these opportunities lead to success.

Modified and new technologies are now in demand for all aspects of the energy system. This is why several German Federal ministries are supporting the innovations of the "Energiewende" (Energy Transition). The Energiewende Research and Innovation platform, coordinated by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, engages in dialog with the national players in the German Federal government, in business and science regarding the strategic orientation of energy research.

In this assembly Professor Georg Rosenfeld, Executive Vice President Technology Marketing and Business Models, addressed the issue of energy efficiency in industry, business, retail and service provision ("Energieeffizienz in Industrie, Gewerbe, Handel und Dienstleistungen"): "The new formulation of the funding priority areas and the formation of the 'Research Network Energy in Industry and Commerce' back up the focused support of research on energy efficiency. Fraunhofer will be able to contribute extensive expertise to the various research segments of the funding priority area, for example regarding iron and steel or manufacturing technologies."

Records with sun and wind

Fraunhofer Institutes develop fundamental technological foundations for the Energy Transition, with particular emphasis on technologies for energy generation based on wind and the sun.

Laser-based manufacturing process for highly efficient solar cells

Dr. Jan Nekarda and Dr.-Ing. Ralf Preu (from the left) developed the Laser Fired Contact process for series manufacturing of highly efficient PERC solar cells.
© Photo Dirk Mahler/Fraunhofer

Dr. Jan Nekarda and Dr.-Ing. Ralf Preu (from the left) developed the Laser Fired Contact process for series manufacturing of highly efficient PERC solar cells.

An award-winning example in photovoltaics (PV) is the Laser Fired Contact (LFC) process: Highly reflective mirrors are inserted in the innovative PV cells as a thin intermediate layer. The layer reflects those photons which in the past could not be absorbed in conventional PV cells back into the cells. They pass through the semiconductor several times, producing more electricity. The LFC process, developed at Fraunhofer ISE, enables mass production of this type of innovative solar cell for the first time ever.

Together with his colleague Jan Nekarda, Dr. Ralf Preu was awarded the Fraunhofer Prize for developing the method. The jury emphasized that the LFC technology contributes to "the continuing successful participation of German companies in the hotly contested photovoltaics market."

Efficient wind energy systems

Am Standort Bremerhaven des Fraunhofer IWES werden Prüfstände und Textmethoden für Windenergie-anlagen entwickelt, wie hier für Lager der Rotorblätter.
© Photo Rolf Nachbar / IMO

The efficiency of wind energy systems is constantly improving, for example through earlier detection of damage, thus reducing outages and high repair costs, in particular in the offshore sector. The bearings of the rotor blades in large turbines are particularly sensitive. In order to optimize these bearings, researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Wind Energy and Energy System Technology IWES Bremerhaven are developing a test methodology and a testing station. "We're developing an accelerated method that simulates 20 years of wind turbine operation in only six months," says Christian Broer, describing the subsidized project Highly Accelerated Pitch Bearing Test.

The Institute's Bremerhaven facility is also home to the world's only wind energy testing facility DyNaLab: The gondolas of the next generation of wind turbines, weighing as much as 400 tons, are put to the test here.

Networks that create efficiency

Kopernikus projects for the Energiewende (Energy Transition)

The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) has launched what is currently the largest research initiative in the Energiewende, "Kopernikus Projects for the Energy Transition": By 2025 € 400 million in subsidies is to be invested in the expansion of power grids, storage and conversion of surplus electricity, redeployment of industrial processes and improvement of the interaction among various industry sectors. IT networking is a prerequisite for the integration of all power market players, including electricity producers, storage facilities and grid operators in an overall system.

In the Kopernikus project SynErgie, uniting over 80 partners from industry, research and the community, Fraunhofer Institutes are working to develop technologies and methods for safeguarding the ability to provide power to energy-intensive industrial processes, even in times of highly unpredictable energy supplies. Fraunhofer IPA is the head of the consortium for the area of Information and Communication Technologies. Here for example technical and market-side requirements are consolidated on a single platform in order to effectively synchronize German industry's energy requirements with the fluctuating energy supply. The seven members of the SynErgie project responsible for respective sectors include Fraunhofer IWU representing mechanical and plant engineering and Fraunhofer FIT representing the paper industry.

SEEDs for the industrial scale Energiewende (Energy Transition)

© Photo Fraunhofer IISB

In the subsidized project SEEDs, Fraunhofer IISB is researching at its own institute how different technologies  can be adapted for local application in industrial companies: The Institute's laboratory and plant technologies are comparable to those of a medium-sized industrial company. "In addition to electric energy we're also considering energy in the form of heat and cold which play a major role in industry," explains project coordinator Dr. Richard Öchsner. "We're developing power electronic converters to couple the various different forms of energy and components." Fraunhofer IIS and Fraunhofer ISC are also participating in SEEDs, in addition to Fraunhofer IISB.

SmartRegion Pellworm

Um hocheffiziente PERC-Solarzellen in Serie herzustellen, entwickelten Dr. Jan Nekarda und Dr.-Ing.Ralf Preu (v.l.n.r.) den Laser Fired Contact-Prozess.
© Photo Schleswig-Holstein Netz AG

The North-Sea island of Pellworm serves as an example of the energy mix of tomorrow. 90 percent of the island's energy requirements are already being met by wind, solar and biomass sources. Scientists from Fraunhofer UMSICHT and the Ilmenau branch of Fraunhofer IOSB designed an operational management tool for the hybrid storage system on location. This tool generates automated operation plans on the island making it possible for example to use control energy for network operators and to make the greatest possible use of energy from renewable sources. 

Innovative weather and power forecast models for network integration of weather-dependent energy sources

Prognoseplattform EWeLINE
© Photo Fraunhofer IWES

The forecast platform EWeLINE makes generation of electricity from weather-dependent renewable sources planable and reliable. Fraunhofer IWES, the German weather service Deutscher Wetterdienst (DWD) and three transmission network operators are collaborating in the project. The scientists at IWES are using the latest mathematical methods to facilitate highly precise forecasts for solar and wind-based power generation..

Keeping carbon in the cycle

In spite of all the increases in efficiency and system optimization: Some sectors can't avoid a certain amount of carbon dioxide which has to be emitted. Steel for example cannot be produced to meet modern quality requirements without using coal. On the other hand, cost-effective, low-CO2 "surplus electricity" is occasionally produced which in turn can be used to manufacture useful products. Fraunhofer UMSICHT has dedicated three projects to this area.

Lighthouse Project "Electricity as a Raw Material"

The focus of the lighthouse project  "Electricity as a Raw Material" is the creation of an electricity-driven manufacturing system. When the inexpensive surplus electricity is fed into electro-chemical reactions, basis chemicals for industrial production can be obtained which in the past usually required the use of petroleum. Coordinated by Fraunhofer UMSICHT, ten Fraunhofer Institutes are working on new electro-chemical methods and are preparing them for integration in the German energy system. The consortium plans to establish chains of exploitation in order to be able to present Fraunhofer in ten years as a "full-spectrum provider for electro-chemical research and development.

Dynaflex High Performance Center

The Dynaflex High Performance Center will deal with the more systemic question of how to couple fluctuating energy systems and continuous production systems. "Today production, especially in the chemical industry, operates on a 24x7 basis," explains Professor Görge Deerberg, deputy director. "Energy prices will fluctuate more dramatically in the future. Manufacturing systems have to be able to react accordingly with the possibility of being activated or deactivated or switch to modular operations." The collaboration between Fraunhofer UMSICHT and the universities of the Ruhr metropolitan region will be supported at the High Performance Center by strategic partners in industry.

Project Carbon2Chem®

Together with thyssenkrupp AG and the Max-Planck Institute for Chemical Energy Conversion in Mülheim, Fraunhofer UMSICHT is coordinating the development of technologies and system solutions for gas purification, for adaptation of catalytic production of methanol and higher alcohols as well as for fuel production. The project Carbon2Chem® is specifically concerned with the actual conversion of foundry gases into chemical starter materials.