The World
Revolves around Energy

What applies to each of us as individuals also applies to our society: We need energy to keep moving. The strongest power station for this is nature – with the most advanced technologies, we can use its energy sustainably

 

 

Energy is actually available to us all in abundance: After all, natural energy sources altogether provide more than 3,000 times as much energy as is currently needed worldwide. In just three hours, the sun’s warmth alone provides us with enough power to meet the entire world population’s annual energy needs.


So how do we use the limitless power station that is nature in order to be able to increasingly give up fossil fuels? New ideas on using regenerative energies are more in demand than ever. It’s not only about generating energy: Energy must also be stored and transported. It’s with these kinds of technological challenges that ContiTech comes into play: The Continental subsidiary, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of rubber and plastic products, is in its element when it comes to sun, wind and water energy.

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Solar energy – sunny outlooks for water reservoirs

Good ideas are always simple. And some ideas are so good that they are even twice as effective – the special vinyl films fitted with solar cells by ContiTech’s Benecke-Hornschuch Surface Group business unit, for example. On the one hand, the films from Hanover protect valuable service water from drought and pollution and, on the other hand, they produce plenty of energy.

Self-sufficiency with electricity and water

In many regions of the world, there is an insufficient supply of electricity and water, and there are no supply networks that reach these areas. As Tobias Haarburger, Dynactiv Surfaces Program Manager, states: “There is massive demand for a water and electricity supply that is independent of the grid. Urbanized communities in arid climates cannot supply their rural regions to the same extent as conurbations. This applies to large countries such as the U.S.A., Australia, China and Saudi Arabia, as well as to poorer countries and those dependent on international programs.”

Water and electricity bring safety and growth to a society.

Tobias Haarburger,
Dynactiv Surfaces Program Manager at Benecke-Hornschuch Surface Group
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For households and agriculture

The opaque Dynactiv Power film is the first system worldwide that consistently combines water protection with climate-friendly energy generation. The film can retain up to 40% more service water from evaporation, which benefits the surrounding fields, for example. The photovoltaic modules laminated on the film produce approximately 500 kilowatts of peak electricity per 10,000 square meters. In a 100,000-square-meter reservoir, equal to around ten soccer pitches, a small power station that operates with a peak of 5.0 megawatts could already supply several thousand households with electricity.

Groundbreaking development

A market-ready development such as this is feasible only if many specialists pull together: Engineers at ContiTech and from Israel developed the novel system together with water managers and photovoltaic manufacturers. The high degree of prefabrication makes for particularly simple installation: There is no need for complex concreting or large construction sites, and the film webs (25 meters long, 1.5 meters wide) are simple to lay down and connect. The tear-resistant films can be walked on, thus allowing maintenance work to be performed with very little effort. Wind and sand cause very little damage to the flat modules, giving the system a service life of approximately 20 years. Dynactiv Power received a special award in the Sustainability category at the Inovyn Award 2016 as a smart solution for supplying water and energy.

Hydraulic power – a lake as a giant socket

The history of using hydraulic power is thousands of years old: Advanced civilizations in China, on the Nile, the Euphrates and the Tigris were the first to use machines powered by water in the form of norias to irrigate their fields; by the Middle Ages, water wheels and mills were being used on creeks and rivers. In today’s industrial society, the latest turbine technology allows kinetic energy to turn water into electricity. So what can be done if the water is not flowing or is only flowing insufficiently, and taking into account that the more volatile electricity from wind and solar requires systems with which electric power can be stored? The Fraunhofer Institute for Wind Energy and Energy System Technology (IWES) in Kassel recently tested the 20-metric-ton prototype of an innovative hollow sphere storage system in a simulated service test, right in the middle of Europe’s largest drinking water reservoir Lake Constance, at a depth of 100 meters.

 
 

How hollow sphere storage works

Phase 1 – producing electricity

The novel pump storage uses the lake itself as its upper storage reservoir. The lower storage basin is formed by the hollow sphere on the lake bed. When electricity is needed on shore, a valve at the opening of the sphere opens. The water flowing into the sphere powers a pump turbine that uses a generator to produce electricity, which reaches the shore via connecting cables.

Phase 2 – dry pumping the hollow sphere

Excess electricity, such as any generated overnight or at peak feed-in times, is used to pump the concrete sphere dry again. Air can flow into the sphere through the hose when water is pumped out, so that underpressure does not occur and the efficiency of the equipment can be increased. When there is renewed demand for energy on land, the water can now flow into the sphere again and drive the turbines.

Dealing with pressure

To allow air to flow through the pressure equalization line in the sphere when pumping out the hollow sphere store, a real high-tech hose is required, which was developed and manufactured by ContiTech. The biggest challenge with this is that at a depth of 100 meters, the external pressure is around 10 bar. To ensure that the hose can be used at all times in these difficult conditions, the hose was actually designed with safety factor 3, i.e. for an external pressure of up to 30 bar. An additional steel helix inside the hose wall provides the necessary mechanical stability.

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No experiments with drinking water

Lake Constance supplies around 4.5 million people with drinking water. Therefore, the greatest care was taken to use only nonhazardous materials when developing the hose and the entire apparatus. All layers of the hose fulfill the strict requirements of the German Drinking Water Ordinance and the directives of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In doing so, it ensures that it will not cause any changes to the taste or smell of the water. Incidentally, all tests of the underwater pump storage power station were successful: The Fraunhofer Institute is thus planning another experiment with a large plant at a water depth of approx. 700 meters as the next step.

Did you know?

Ten interesting facts about renewable energy

1. In China, investments in renewable energy exceeded those in conventional power stations for the first time in 2013.

2. Solar power provides Earth with 3,900,000,000 petajoules (1 trillion joules) in a year. In comparison, geothermal energy provides 996,000 petajoules while gravitation (for tidal power stations) supplies 94,000 petajoules.

3. Osmotic power stations use the difference between the salt content of fresh and salt water to produce energy.

4. Theoretically, a 700-square-meter area of solar panels in the Sahara would be sufficient to supply the entire world with energy.

5. If a photovoltaic system was installed on every roof in Germany, this would cover around 115% of our annual energy needs.

6. More than 80% of all energy produced worldwide from renewable energy sources comes from water power.

7. The first biogas plants were used as early as the mid-19th century for home use in Asian countries.

8. Up to 1,000 kWm could be produced annually from the manure of one cow.

9. With a share of almost 88% of all renewable energies, biomass remains the most significant source of renewable heating by a long way.

10. At the end of 2016, 604 watts of wind energy power were installed per person in Germany.

Sun, water, wind – every day, nature gifts us more energy than we could use for the planet. However, we need to be able to use it: ContiTech, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of rubber and plastic products and involved in all sectors of industry, contributes to supplying the world with sustainable energy with its innovative solutions.

Experience more of the big, wide ContiTech world here.