Energy System 2050 – A Contribution of the Research Field Energy

“Energy System 2050” is a joint initiative of the research field energy of the Helmholtz Association. Running until 2019, it is aiming at improving the concrete understanding of energy systems and at developing technological solutions for use by politics and industry.

Research Topic 1: Storage and Grids

Coordinators: Prof. Dr. Mathias Noe (KIT), Dr. Dirk Witthaut (FZJ)

Helmholtz Centres: DLR, FZJ, GFZ, HZB, HZDR, KIT

The Energiewende in Germany requires substantial expansion of the grids for various forms of energy and the use of safe and affordable energy storages in order to integrate renewable energies, which may fluctuate strongly, to balance supply and demand, and to ensure security of supply.

The research topic “Storage and Grids” aims at a common understanding of the structure and characteristics of key energy components and their interfaces. Scientists elaborate models for different forms of energy, such as electricity, gas and heat, which allow simulation and design on different time scales and spatial resolutions. They set up harmonised grid models for power and gas supplies in Germany. They study coupled grids for different forms of energy and elaborate benchmarks to validate models and important criteria, such as grid stability.


Research Topic 2: Bioenergy

Coordinators: Prof. Dr. Dieter Stapf (KIT), Prof. Dr. Daniela Thrän (UFZ)

Helmholtz Centers: DLR, FZJ, KIT, UFZ

This research topic seeks to integrate the “Bioenergy” process chain for the production of chemical energy carriers (fuels), basic chemicals, and power and heat, adapt it technically to fluctuating boundary conditions and optimise it economically. A gas turbine modified for operation on synthesis gas with flexibility in terms of fuel and loads acts as an industrial-scale source of power and heat.

The scientists also study processes converting biomass into intermediate products of higher energy density, which can be transported economically over long distances for further processing into synthesis gas in central facilities, and optimise these processes with respect to costs, resource and energy efficiency. They also investigate possibilities of linking the generation of biogenic synthesis gas and hydrogen production by electrolysis in an effort to produce synthetic liquid fuels and storable gaseous energy carriers. In a model, they describe the “Bioenergy” process chain with additional elements from the biogas area in order to optimise the flexible use of biogas as a function of systems requirements.


Research Topic 3: Hydrogen-based Energy and Resource Pathways

Coordinators: Prof. Dr. Detlef Stolten (FZJ), Dr. Axel Liebscher (GFZ)

Helmholtz Centres: DLR, FZJ, GFZ, HZB, UFZ

Hydrogen can be used in many ways, for instance as a fuel for vehicles or a chemical resource in industry. So hydrogen opens up possibilities of transferring renewable energies from the power sector into the industrial and transport sectors. This trans-sectorial supply of energy and resources requires the interconnection of infrastructures for power and gas and the availability of novel large-scale storages.

Within the research topic “Hydrogen-based Energy and Resource Pathways”, scientists study the role of hydrogen in the reduction of greenhouse gases, elaborate concepts for setting up an integrated power and hydrogen supply infrastructure, examine and assess options of energy and materials self-supply for industry and households, and analyse the changes of global supply infrastructures for renewable energies and hydrogen.


Research Topic 4: Life-Cycle-Oriented Sustainability Analysis at System Level

Coordinators: Dr. Stephan Saupe (DLR), Dr. Petra Zapp (FZJ)

Helmholtz Centres: DLR, FZJ, HZB, HZDR, IPP, KIT, UFZ

To successfully continue and complete the Energiewende, it is important that technical and scientific, ecological, economic, and social aspects of the transformation be analysed comprehensively and at an early stage and incorporated in the process. In this research topic, scientists transfer the method of Life-Cycle Sustainability Assessment (LCSA) to the level of energy systems.

Using life-cycle methodology, they study technical, ecological, economic and societal aspects of Storage and Grids, Bioenergy, and Hydrogen-based Pathsways. In doing so, they also identify interactions with aspects outside the energy sector, such as competing land uses, and analyse social indicators, such as effects on employment and income, or the perception and acceptance of technologies. The objective of the studies is a state-of-the-art methodology of Life-Cycle-oriented Sustainability Analysis of energy technologies focused on key parameters and tested on the basis of the three concrete examples.


Research Topic 5: Toolbox and Data Models

Coordinators: Prof. Dr. Veit Hagenmeyer (KIT), Prof. Dr. Dirk Müller (RWTH Aachen/JARA)

Helmholtz Centres: DLR, FZJ/JARA, GFZ, IPP, KIT

The design and optimisation of a future energy system with its decentralised and varying producer and user structures and its partly multiple conversion and storage steps, require a fundamental understanding of the dynamic and systemic interconnections of all components and of the process and control variables. For this purpose, the key components of a future energy system must be described accurately in terms of their physical and systemic properties. The interaction among the components and their behaviour in the overall energy system must be determined. This needs sub-models to be developed for individual components, such as generators, storages, and consumers, and for the connecting elements, such as power and gas grids, district heating and cooling grids, in the overall system.

This research topic aims at defining standard data formats and allowing the combination of various data sources, developing standard models for the components of the energy system, and generating reliable algorithms for planning, operation, and optimisation of the entire energy system.

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