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With prices rising and resources dwindling around the world, the responsible use of energy is becoming increasingly important.
Limited natural resources and the growing demand for energy are challenging energy utilities, industry, and consumers to use energy in a way that is as efficient and environmentally sustainable as possible. Energy efficiency involves all forms of energy conversion, from effective power generation, to the transmission and distribution of electrical energy and heat, to its efficient use in industry, buildings, and transportation.
With today’s technology, the potential savings are immense. Siemens is one of only few companies in the world to support customers with its own products and solutions – in a way that is environmentally sensitive and cost-effective. The company’s extensive environmental portfolio includes high-efficiency gas and steam turbine power plants, renewable energies, low-loss electrical connections, and smart grids, along with intelligent building technologies, efficient transportation, and energy-saving drives and industry solutions. Renewables like wind and solar energy are gaining increasingly more importance – especially in view of Germany’s new energy policy. Siemens offers a wide range of measures to achieve a sustainable future of energy.
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One year after the major earthquake and nuclear catastrophe in Japan, Germany’s new energy policy has been launched. All of Germany’s nuclear power plants are to be shut down by 2022. Plans by the German federal government also include developing new energy storage devices, expanding the supply networks, improving conventional power plants as a bridging technology, and increasing energy efficiency.
These are ambitious plans for an unparalleled conversion project that is intended to improve the population’s quality of life while at the same time boosting the country’s economy. This will involve overcoming a number of challenges: for example, achieving a balance between renewable and fossil energies, as well as between small decentralized facilities and large power plants, while at the same retaining the system’s basic load capability.
Siemens is convinced that the new energy policy can succeed. It can unleash a wave of innovation, create an exemplary energy infrastructure, create a model power infrastructure and further strengthen the export potential of technologies for climate and environmental protection. First and foremost, nine measures are necessary to raise the expansion of renewables to as much as 80 percent of the electricity mix by 2050 and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80 percent in the same time period.
If about half of Germany’s energy is to come from renewables by 2030 (and some 80% by 2050), then they’ll have to be competitive without subsidies. This goal can be achieved by wind power, in particular – the innovations that Siemens is currently creating are expected to make electricity from wind power as economical as energy from coal. These innovations include scimitar-shaped rotor blades, gearless turbines, adaptive software that optimally adjusts wind loads to rotors, the automation of production processes and the longest rotor blades in the world for the most efficient offshore wind turbines.
Renewable resources are best exploited where they’re most plentiful: wind on the high seas and sun in warm regions. The long-distance networks must thus be extended: across national borders and with conventional high-voltage powerlines, underground cables and particularly with efficient power superhighways using high-voltage direct-current (HVDC) transmission technology. For example, with an HVDC system in China, Siemens is showing how this technology can transport 5,000 megawatts of electricity over a distance of 1,400 kilometers and still deliver 95% of the power to the consumers. Had conventional alternating-current power lines been used, the loss would have been two to three times as high.
And yet another challenge: as weather conditions change, so does the output of wind and solar systems. That’s why facilities that can store excess energy for hours, days and, if necessary, even weeks, are indispensable. To expand conventional pump storage power plants in Germany would be very difficult. However, excess electricity can also be used in electrolyzers to generate ecofriendly hydrogen, which can then be fed into the natural gas grid, stored in underground caverns, reconverted into electricity and used in fuel-cell vehicles. Batteries in buildings and electric cars can also serve as intermediate storage facilities. Siemens is conducting research in all these fields.
When the wind suddenly drops or clouds move across the sun, fluctuations in power output have to be quickly offset. This is where quick-start gas power plants are particularly effective. Combined with steam turbines, they’re also extremely efficient. The world’s most efficient power plant, built by Siemens, is able to convert natural gas into electricity at an efficiency of almost 61% and consumes a third less fuel per kilowatt hour than the average gas power plant worldwide. In less than 30 minutes, the facility can be brought from standstill to a capacity which is sufficient to meet the energy needs of a city the size of Berlin. And waste heat from such combined cycle power plants can also be used for heating purposes.
Coal will also continue to be a key pillar of power generation worldwide for many years to come – global coal reserves are very extensive and coal-based power production is relatively economical. But coal-fired power plants can also be made much cleaner and more efficient with new technologies, and are expected to reach 50% efficiency in the future. Making all the world’s coal-fired power plants that efficient would cut the present level of carbon emissions by 3.7 billion tons a year – nearly as much CO2 as the entire EU emits in a year. In addition, CO2 can be separated from the waste gas produced by power plants, stored underground or used for industrial purposes. Siemens researchers are working, for example, on using algae to convert CO2 into biomass and thus into the raw materials needed to produce bio-fuel and bio-plastic as well as on the generation of methane and methanol from CO2 and hydrogen.
Fifteen years ago, there were only a few hundred energy producers supplying electricity to Germany’s power grids. In the future, there’ll be millions – generating power from solar, wind and biomass systems and from small cogeneration units. Today’s energy consumers will increasingly be prosumers – both producers and consumers of electricity. This fact – coupled with the increased use of renewable energy sources that cause strong fluctuations in electricity supply and prices – will make smart grids indispensable for power distribution. With partners in Germany, Siemens is already demonstrating how these grids will function. Local energy producers in Wildpoldsried, a town in the country’s Allgäu region, are for example generating more than three times as much electricity with photovoltaic, biomass and wind power systems as they consume themselves. They’re also using electric cars. Smart grids are ensuring network stability while balancing production and consumption, by means of numerous measuring sensors, controllable network components and self-organizing software modules.
In most cases, it doesn’t matter if the power for a refrigerated warehouse or an air conditioning system is shut off briefly – just as it’s hardly noticeable if an elevator travels somewhat more slowly than usual. These are just some of the many possibilities for cutting energy consumption when supplies are low and prices are high. This system, known as demand management, which is at present most commonly used in the U.S., eases the burden on power grids. Siemens researchers are currently working, for example, on building automation systems that adapt energy consumption to price fluctuations in real time, thus helping flatten demand peaks.
The cleanest energy is always the energy that’s not consumed. This is one of the biggest levers for a sustainable energy supply in the future. Thus in industry, for example, there’s still considerable potential for savings in drives and pumps, for instance – electric motors currently consume nearly two-thirds of the power used in industrial applications. Energy-saving motors and intelligent controls from Siemens consume up to 60% less power than their conventional counterparts. As a result, investments in this area pay for themselves in less than two years. The same applies to transport: electric motors, whether in buses, trains or cars, are around three times more efficient than combustion engines. Through insulation, heat pumps, intelligent building technologies and efficient lighting systems, it’s also possible to achieve substantial energy savings in buildings, which account for 40% of energy consumption worldwide. Household appliances likewise harbor enormous savings potential. Modern appliances use less than half the power than comparable devices did in the 1990s.
Municipalities and cities in particular require intelligent financing solutions that can enable them to cut energy consumption substantially despite budget constraints. In the area of building infrastructure modernization, one proven approach is Siemens’ energy-saving performance contracting – a combination of consulting, installation and financing services. Customers do not need to make any upfront investment; project costs are amortized with the energy savings achieved. Using this model, Siemens has upgraded more than 4,500 facilities worldwide – generating savings of roughly €1billion and slashing CO2 emissions by some 9.7 million tons, or more than the amount emitted annually by a city the size of Munich.
The first priority of any of the many measures that fundamentally change the energy systems must be to ensure that energy is reliably available all the time at affordable prices. Blackouts must always be avoided and the international competitiveness of the industry must not be endangered by excessive energy costs. For this reason, the various elements of the energy puzzle must be carefully planned and implemented. Only when they are accepted by the population and fit together perfectly will the conversion of the energy system be a success and the solutions deployed become export hits on international markets.
Siemens will make a key contribution to Germany’s new energy policy, and is committed to providing a sustainable energy supply. To this end, we are increasing the efficiency of conventional power plants, widening the use of renewable energies, and developing energy-saving solutions for buildings, lighting, transportation, and industry.
Rigorous energy efficiency begins with the extraction and processing of fossil fuels, and continues through all steps in energy conversion. The goal for power plants is to convert as much of the primary energy as possible into electricity and usable heat.
Most of the energy used in the oil and gas industry goes to pumping and compressing the raw materials in the course of extraction, production, and transportation. Electrical instead of mechanical methods can make these processes more efficient. Siemens is the only manufacturer offering power generation and supply, electrical drive systems, and compression solutions from a single source.
The future of electricity generation lies in a balanced energy mix. Fossil fuels will play just as important a role as renewable sources, because they form the stable basis for dependable worldwide energy supplies. This is an area with especially high potential for improvements in energy efficiency, especially in the modernization of coal-fired power plants. In China, for example, the average efficiency is only 30 percent. However, China’s most modern energy factories, the coal-fired power plants Yuhuan and Waigaoqiao III, reach efficiencies of 45 and 46 percent respectively, thanks to special energy-saving technology from Siemens.
With an energy efficiency of more than 60 percent, modern gas and steam power plants like the SCC5-8000H 1S have the highest efficiency in fossil fuel power generation. These “fast cycling” power plants can be run up to full speed very quickly, making them highly suitable for compensating for the natural fluctuations of wind and solar power. Cogeneration power plants that simultaneously produce electricity and heat or process steam are even more efficient – up to 90 percent. One such example is the Moscow City power plant, which provides the Moscow business district with power and district heating with this kind of efficiency.
With its technologies for wind and hydropower, Siemens already has answers for the greatest challenges of our society. Renewable energies play an increasingly vital role in the energy mix, helping meet constantly increasing energy demand even as raw material reserves dwindle - particularly in view of Germany’s new energy policy.
As the world market leader in offshore wind energy generation, Siemens proves that wind parks can also work efficiently on land. For example, on the windy west coast of New Zealand, the ”West Wind” and “Te Uku” parks supply 100,000 households with power.
Hydropower – traditional power generation using water power, combined with the latest technologies – offers solutions for micro-hydro power plants as well as research potential for tidal power.
With its service program, Siemens helps its customers proactively boost the productivity of their systems. The portfolio extends from exclusive service contracts for plant components to contracts for the complete operation and maintenance of a power plant. Siemens offers a range of modernization programs that enable older plants to continue to operate profitably and efficiently. This can involve anything from adapting the entire plant to a new operating concept, to simply replacing individual components.
Conventional alternating-current transmission runs up against technical limitations when electricity from renewable sources has to be brought to consumers over long distances or by undersea cable. High-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission has proven its ability to move large amounts of power with low losses. An HVDC system converts AC power at the source to DC power, and again back to AC at the destination.
The absolute showcase HVCD system is currently the 1,400 kilometer “power highway” between the Chinese provinces of Yunnan and Guangdong. It transmits environmentally friendly power generated by several hydropower plants, saving 30 megatons of CO2 each year that otherwise would have been emitted in conventional local electricity generation.
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HVDC technology is gaining ground in Europe and North America as well, especially for transmitting power by undersea cables. The most recent project is a connection between Spain and the Balearic Islands, via a 250 kilometer undersea cable from the mainland to the resort island of Mallorca. In the U.S., the Neptune HVDC line moves renewably generated power from New Jersey to Long Island, helping to stabilize the New York power supply.
These projects represent the first steps toward a smart grid, designed to provide cross-border energy equalization between areas with a power surplus and areas with increased energy demand. The goal is to integrate energy from fluctuating renewable sources into the grid as effectively as possible.
HVDC isn’t just a key technology for the long-distance transmission of large amounts of power. With HVDC PLUS, Siemens brings the benefits of high-voltage direct current transmission to applications with limited space, such as offshore wind parks and oil drilling platforms. The compact converters fit easily, so that electricity generated from wind can be moved to the coast with low losses. This compact technology likewise enables the economical supply of power to drilling platforms from the mainland. It’s also highly suitable for large metropolises. One example is the Transbay project, which increases the safety and reliability of San Francisco’s power supply.
Conventional alternating current grids will continue to play an important role in power transmission. Here, too, efficiency can be greatly increased. The key is “reactive power compensation.” With this, the Siemens FACTS (Flexible AC Transmission Systems) prevent grid outages by quickly regulating voltage, handling grid fluctuations, and controlling the flow of current, thus increasing the transmission performance of even long lines.
The higher the voltage, the lower the loss. This elementary law of the physics of electrical energy transmission makes it necessary to keep voltages high as close to the consumers as possible. That way, lower-voltage distribution grids can be made smaller and less prone to loss. Low-noise whisper transformers permit voltage reduction even in heavily populated areas. More efficient voltage transformers also bring further energy savings. Gas-insulated cables (GIL) and switchgear (GIS) transmit and distribute energy in a way that is environmentally sustainable and with a very small footprint.
34 percent of world greenhouse gas emissions are caused by industrial activity, so energy efficiency is particularly important here. Siemens is one of the market leaders in energy-efficient products and solutions. They are tailored to specific industries and requirements, and often help save so much energy that they pay for themselves.
Special automation and drive solutions make a major contribution to higher energy efficiency in industry. Analysis tools, energy-saving products, concepts, and services can significantly reduce energy consumption, costs, and CO2 emissions.
How can companies manage energy systematically? Siemens distinguishes among three phases in the optimization of energy use in industry: Identify, Evaluate, Implement. Whether for electrical energy, water, gas, or compressed air, only when precise consumption and performance figures are collected over an extended period, can useful and realistic measures be defined.
Siemens management systems like B.Data, SIMATIC powerrate, or the zero-cost software SinaSave are useful for the first two phases. In the third phase, the appropriate energy-saving solution is implemented. Drive technology deserves special attention, since up to two thirds of the energy used in industrial operations goes to motors and drives. With individual drives, energy savings of up to 70 percent are realistic, in new systems as well as in plant modernizations.
Selecting the right product isn’t the only major factor in long-term energy savings. Industrial operations can run efficiently and economically only with high quality services, from initial analysis and consulting to the reliable maintenance of systems. This is where the modular Energy & Environmental service portfolio comes in. Among other things, it can reduce the energy and water costs of a facility as well as the CO2 emissions of a system.
Of course, some industries are particularly energy-intensive. These need their own specific solutions, for energy savings as well as for environmental protection. Siemens offers a wide range of tailored environmental solutions for these industries. An example from the metals industry: A system based on technology by Arvedi and built by Siemens VAI Metals Technologies permits full exploitation of the heat energy of cast steel. Energy measurements have confirmed a 45 percent reduction in energy consumption as compared with conventional casting and rolling processes. And lower energy usage also means a significant reduction in CO2 emissions.
Cities account for about two thirds of the energy used in the world. They need to be made more energy-efficient and also more environmentally friendly. This can be achieved with innovative technologies that also create a higher quality of life and save costs. With its comprehensive environmental portfolio, Siemens is a world leader in sustainable urban development, with all-inclusive, sustainable solutions for efficient energy distribution, intelligent buildings, and “green” mobility.
Efficient energy distribution is especially important in large metropolitan areas. Smart grids will be a major part of that. These intelligent power transmission and distribution networks are based on interactive communication among all parts of the electricity market. Smart grids connect large central and small decentralized generation units with consumers to form one overall structure. They control power generation and prevent network overloading, since at any given time only as much power is generated as is needed.
Intelligent power grids can also incorporate electric vehicles as mobile power storage units. When generation is high, an electric car can store power, and release it to the grid as needed. Hybrid busses are in use in many cities. They combine internal combustion engines and electric motors, and have special systems to reclaim braking energy. This clean energy technology reduces fuel consumption and emissions by up to 30 percent. Hybrid busses are especially suited to urban use. Siemens uses ELFA, a flexible drive system that draws power from different energy sources, and is currently in use in, for example, Nuremberg and London.
Buildings also offer immense energy saving potential – they are responsible for 40 percent of the world´s energy consumption and 21 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions. Intelligent building technology can contribute greatly to increased energy efficiency and comfort in buildings, while raising the productivity of building occupants and companies.
The important thing is that all systems and components are configured to work together. Total Building Solutions (TBS) from Siemens provides this level of integration, in which electrical installation technology, heating, air conditioning, ventilation, lighting, shades, access control systems, video surveillance, alarms, fire detection, and evacuation, all optimally complement each other. With a permanent energy optimization process, the energy efficiency of buildings can thereby be greatly boosted.
The new headquarters of the publisher Süddeutscher Verlag in Munich has "Leed Gold" green building certification, and is an example of maximum energy efficiency in combination with individual room comfort.
How can such modernization be financed? One solution is energy performance contracting, wherein the costs of modernization are financed by the resulting energy savings.
Further cost savings are possible through improved electricity distribution in buildings. With Totally Integrated Power (TIP), Siemens offers products and systems with compatible interfaces and design that can constantly monitor energy distribution projects. This brings great benefits in all phases and for all participants in a project, with fast, economical energy production and cost-effective operation.