Renewable Energies and Resource Efficiency

The research area is mainly concerned with the development of methods and competences for increasing the efficiency of buildings, districts, production facilities and processes, with particular reference to sustainability and environmental compatibility. Energy and building technology systems, energy-efficient and resource-efficient production methods as well as the use of biomass to produce materials and energy are thematic focal points.

 

The following are actively engaged in the research area:

  • Faculty of Electrical Engineering
  • Faculty of Automotive Engineering
  • Faculty of Mechanical Engineering
  • Faculty of Supply Engineering

 

Researchers give an insight into their work

In interviews, the researchers present the research area and one of their research projects.

 

Renewable Energies and Resource Efficiency - Prof. Brüggemann and Prof. Kühl

Prof. Brüggemann and Prof. Kühl in dialogue about the research area

"The proximity of research and teaching makes our projects so exciting"

This objective is one of the major challenges facing our world: Energy supply and consumption should be more climate-friendly. Sustainability and environmental compatibility play an important role in the research area Renewable Energies and Resource Efficiency at Ostfalia. In this interview, the Professors Holger Brüggemann and Lars Kühl talk about the projects they are working on and who benefits from them. And they explain why the research area enriches their work.

 


Professor Brüggemann, Professor Kühl, how much energy can companies save in production?

Holger Brüggemann: In our projects we have found that companies can reduce their consumption by up to 30 percent. In Lower Saxony the areas of industry, trade, commerce and services account for more than 40 percent of the total energy consumption. This shows how great the potential is that we have not exploited yet.

 


Why is it important that we use energy more economically?

Holger Brüggemann: We have set ourselves high climate protection goals. The master plan for the greater Brunswick area provides that we want to reduce energy consumption by half until the year 2050 and greenhouse gas emissions by 95 percent. There are similar plans for Lower Saxony and Germany-wide. In order to achieve these goals, there are basically only two ways. First, we need more renewable energy sources. And secondly, we have to increase energy efficiency significantly – and that is precisely what I work on in the production environment.

Lars Kühl: I am working on the use of renewable energies in buildings – the supply of heating, cooling and electricity. Geothermal and solar thermal systems, heat pumps and photovoltaics: these are just a few of the headings for the large range of topics that we cover with our research projects. And we also include these topics in teaching: we pass the findings from our projects on to the students. Again and again, lectures take place on site in businesses and buildings. With ongoing processes, students can follow optimisation measures – so to speak live and in colour. This close proximity of research and teaching also makes our projects so exciting.

 


Why don’t more companies concern themselves with renewable energies and energy efficiency?

Holger Brüggemann: Many underestimate the opportunities to save energy. They know that compressed air tools are not particularly efficient and leaks are a waste of resources. But they are surprised to hear that exchanging a pneumatic screwdriver for an electric screwdriver uses 90 percent less energy. Many small and medium-sized companies are also working to capacity already. They often lack the time to address this subject.

 


And this is where you come in?

Lars Kühl: Yes, it is also up to us to inform them about the potential savings and how to use them. We visit plants, offices and residential buildings, equip them with measurement technology and record the consumption of electricity, heat and cold. Then we explain how renewable energies and efficiency measures can improve the energy consumption figures. We also develop concepts for the energy supply of entire buildings. The new construction of the Oeding printing plant in Brunswick is an energy-plus building generating its own energy. Ostfalia made a significant contribution to the planning of the building.

 


What else have you worked on?

Holger Brüggemann: The expansion of the Lower Saxony “learning factory” for resource efficiency at Ostfalia (NiFaR). This project gave rise to a non-profit organisation many partners are actively involved in and many employees from companies have been trained in. In this way we have shown many companies new ways and means to improve energy efficiency. In the field of robotics, we have worked with Volkswagen AG to determine which influences affect energy consumption. If you change the robot’ s programming, you can save up to 40 percent of the energy.

 


Who is involved in your research area?

Lars Kühl: Our research area involves first and foremost the Ostfalia Faculties of Mechanical Engineering, Supply Engineering as well as Automotive Engineering and Electrical Engineering. The reason is that electromobility is an important issue: We can integrate storage capacities from vehicles into the energy supply of buildings. We are also well networked outside of Ostfalia: via the contact with other universities, industrial enterprises, planning offices as well as residential property developers and municipalities we can integrate issues such as building construction and architecture, control and measurement engineering. Thus we work according to the state of the art in real projects and are oriented towards the needs of the users. 

Holger Brüggemann: It helps us that the topics digitisation and Industry 4.0 play a major role in businesses. Whoever digitalises production also quickly sees substantial progress after only a short time. Our research area benefits from the fact that Ostfalia has positioned itself quite strongly in digitisation.

Lars Kühl: It is important that there is an interface to the social scientists. This way we examine how the optimisation measures and the use of modern technologies can gain the necessary acceptance by the users.

 


Why does the research area enrich your work?

Holger Brüggemann: Because I can contribute to ensuring that we achieve our climate protection goals. And because investments in the energy efficiency of machines and plants generally lead to increased productivity. By means of declining energy consumption we can also improve the competitiveness of companies. In my view, this is a very sensible task …

Lars Kühl: …especially since we do not just implement the energy-saving measures. But also convey the numerous possibilities offered by renewable energy and energy efficiency to our students in teaching. Like this, we ensure that our research has a sustainable impact.

 

Erneuerbare Energien und Ressourceneffizient - Prof. Ahrens

Prof. Ahrens talks about the Esparsette-project

Less foam, more biogas: The sainfoin should make it happen

The sainfoin is a real multi-talent. One of her many abilities: In cattle, the plant acts like a bittersweet. Since its high tannin content stops the formation of foam in the rumen, it is good for digestion. Researchers at Ostfalia now want to find out: Is sainfoin also the solution for over-foaming biogas plants?

Uncontrollable foaming is a big problem in biogas production plants: it interferes with production, reducing yields. And the vexatious foam is difficult to fight – unless the sainfoin works according to the same principle as in the cow’s stomach. Ostfalia is investigating how much their use in biogas production pays off. Research partners are the Institute of Crop and Soil Science of the Julius Kühn Institute (JKI) Federal Research Centre for Cultivated Plants and the Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research.

If the sainfoin also has a positive effect in biogas plants, the pink plant could soon make a big appearance in native fields. As in the past, when it was an important forage crop for farm animals.

Many people could profit from its return to the agricultural landscape. The biogas industry, because they could attain better results by using sainfoin; and agriculture, because sainfoin expands crop rotation in the long run and increases biological diversity. Our environment would also gain something: Sainfoin is a major plus for a bee’s daily diet. 

The sainfoin project runs until the end of 2019. It is funded by the Federal Ministry for Food and Agriculture.

 

Prof. Dr. Thorsten Ahrens, Head of the Laboratory of Bioprocess Engineering at the Faculty of Supply Engineering at Ostfalia:

"We are investigating whether the use of the sainfoin can stabilise the process of biogas production. Our project is important, because we want to create not only an economic but also an ecological benefit: the return of the sainfoin would enrich the world of plants."

 

Dr. Torsten Thünen, Institute of Crop and Soil Science of the Julius Kühn Institute:

"Our aim is to bring sainfoin and its many valuable properties much more firmly to the forefront of agricultural use. Seed breeding and variety development, cultivation and harvest of the sainfoin, biomass production and use: our project has many facets."

 

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