Innosuisse supported eight Swiss Competence Centers for Energy Research (SCCER) between 2013 and 2020 as part of the Energy Funding Programme. During this time, the SCCERs launched over 1,500 projects and developed solutions for Switzerland’s energy future. We have put together a few highlights.
Software solution for optimised energy planning of local energy systems
Within the framework of the SCCER FEEB&D, researchers developed new methods for planning local energy systems. Empa’s spin-off Sympheny launched these methodological innovations as a “software-as-a-service” solution. Planners of local energy systems, particularly engineering offices and municipal utilities, will benefit from the solution. It assists energy planners in finding an optimal energy supply solution for a specific site. The platform helps them better integrate renewable energy sources and increase energy efficiency in a cost-effective way.
High-temperature heat pump with environmentally friendly refrigerants
High-temperature heat pumps are generally considered very beneficial for decarbonising industry. However, at this time, there are very few of these pumps on the market. In recent years, the SCCER EIP has carried out intensive research in the field of high-temperature heat pumps with environmentally friendly refrigerants and published the most important findings in the book “High-Temperature Heat Pumps”. In addition to the theoretical analyses, a prototype was also developed at the OST University of Applied Sciences, which demonstrates some traits that are above-average compared to the heat pumps analysed. It is highly likely that this developed technology will be able to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in various industrial sectors. One example of this is Maestrani Schweizer Schokoladen AG, which has modernised the energy supply for its chocolate production with efficient and environmentally friendly refrigeration technology and heat pumps. Their goal is to produce chocolate in a CO2-neutral way within the next few years.
Use of geothermal energy
In the future, fossil fuels are expected to be replaced by geothermal energy, among other things. Heat and cold storage play a central role in compensating for seasonal fluctuations and also covering seasonal peaks with low-CO2 energy sources. The SCCER SoE has developed workflows to find hydrothermal resources at sites for both direct use and heat storage. This makes it possible to balance out seasonal fluctuations in energy supply and demand in summer and winter.
One example for the use of hydrothermal resources is the city of Geneva, where geophysical measurements and test drilling will be carried out until 2023 as part of the geothermal project. The aim is to improve knowledge of the Geneva subsoil and to locate sites in the region that are suitable for utilising geothermal energy. By 2035 the canton of Geneva aims to generate 20 per cent of its heating energy from geothermal energy.
Integration of particulate filters in incineration plants
Biomass is an important source of renewable energy. However, recycling it involves various challenges, such as the particulate emissions during its incineration. Among other things, the researchers of SCCER BIOSWEET have investigated ways to lower these particulate emissions from solid biofuel incineration plants. This can reduce exposure to potentially carcinogenic compounds as well as improve the acceptance of these devices in society.
The work carried out within the framework of SCCER BIOSWEET has resulted in the current Innosuisse supported project with the company Oekosolve. The aim here is to integrate particulate filters directly into the boiler. This solves the problem of particulate emissions independently of chimney geometry and space conditions and without further intervention in the structural substance. It also opens up the potential for more homeowners to use biomass heating and thus phase out fossil fuels.
Demonstrator for the optimisation of power grids
The SCCER-FURIES project developed a demonstrator which applies different technologies and methods in the field of smart grids. The city of Arbon is the ideal location for these demonstration activities as its grid already has the prerequisites that are envisaged for the grids of the future, such as 100 per cent installation of smart meters and a high pervasion of renewable energy resources. The Arbon energy demonstrator has shown that metres can be used not only for billing, but also for optimising the networks without having to expand them. With careful data maintenance, the voltages throughout the entire grid can be calculated. Digitalisation can also reduce hardware costs for grid expansion and measurement technology. Various strategies and scenarios can be tested via a cockpit as in a virtual laboratory.
From cellar to heat storage
More than 80 per cent of the final energy in Swiss households is required to generate heat. The use of solar energy and other renewable sources is still low because the energy is not generated when we need it — i.e. mainly in winter. The solution is to use seasonal storage: in summer, heat can be stored in a large water tank, which can then be used in winter. Together with the thermal insulation specialist swisspor, this research group is developing a cost-effective and easy-to-implement solution for both individual residential buildings and entire industrial sites. The idea is to convert an existing room — for example, an empty cellar — into a heat storage unit. The room is insulated and sealed on the inside so that it can be filled with water and serve as a seasonal hot water tank.
In the initial innovation project, which took place as part of SCCER HaE, a material for thermal insulation was developed that can withstand temperatures of up to 65 degrees and last up to 50 years. In the follow-up project, HSLU and swisspor, with the support of Innosuisse, are now investigating what it would take to raise the temperature in the hot water tank to 95 degrees and increase the pressure.
3D printing of high-performance components
The weight of a road vehicle has a significant impact on its energy consumption and, when fossil fuels are used, on CO2 emissions. Researchers from SCCER Mobility have investigated, among other things, new lightweight materials and components for vehicles. In particular, they have developed a new 3D printing process for the production of plastic components which, although extremely light-weight, have mechanical properties otherwise only found in fibre reinforced polymers or metals. At the same time, they are fully recyclable and less energy intensive.
In 2020, the ETH spin-off NematX AG was founded to bring this technology to market. The aim is to develop a 3D printing technology to produce plastic components for the highest technical requirements, such as for aerospace, electronics, or medicine. The start-up also receives support from the BRIDGE programme, among others.
Automatic trading of solar power
One objective of the Energy Strategy 2050 is to expand the production of renewable energies, such as wind and solar power. The irregular availability of these energies not only leads to technical challenges, but also poses new questions for the energy markets. Researchers from SCCER CREST have developed a local electricity market that enables owners of a photovoltaic system to sell surplus solar power directly to their neighbours. The aim of the Quartierstrom project was to consume as much locally produced electricity as possible on site.
The Walenstadt energy and water supply company was open to the experiment, and so Switzerland’s first local electricity market was born. And it was a success. Thanks to the local electricity market, self-consumption within the community doubled, with the participating 37 households supplying 33 per cent of their own solar power.
After completion of the project, the start-up Exnaton was founded in mid-2020. The new start-up develops and sells a software solution that brings electricity suppliers and consumers together and simplifies the trading of solar power within energy communities.
Last modification 22.07.2021