Fossil fuels are of limited availability, produce CO2 emissions, and enhance the greenhouse effect. Consequently, the share of renewable energy sources will be increased in Germany and worldwide. To cover energy consumption of a modern industrial society with renewable energy sources, a number of technological approaches and smart networking are required. KIT Helmholtz research focuses on three topics based on renewable sources.
Concentrating Solar Thermal Technology
Concentrating solar thermal power plants use mirrors to focus sunlight. Thanks to the high energy fluxes and temperatures achieved and the good storage properties of heat, efficient power plant processes based on solar energy and capable of producing both base and peak power can be implemented. High-temperature heat can also be used directly in industrial processes. Research of KIT covers liquid metals as heat transfer media for the use of solar thermal energy. For testing these liquid metals, the “SOMMER” pilot plant was built.
During combustion, biomass effectively emits only as much CO2 as the plant took up from the atmosphere during its growth. Hence, the CO2 balance of biomass is much more favorable than that of fossil fuels. In large parts of the world, biomass still is used as a combustible for heating and cooking. Apart from this inefficient traditional use, modern technologies are being developed for biomass utilization.
The earth holds unimaginable energy potentials. The heat stored in the top three kilometers of the earth’s crust alone theoretically is sufficient to cover the current worldwide energy demand for a period of 100,000 years. By human standards, geothermal energy, hence, is nearly unlimited. It can be used decentrally, only little space is required, and hardly any emissions are produced.