FUBIC: an innovative, all-electric model project
The energy supply of the future innovation centre FUBIC will be based on a so-called all-electric system, powered solely by electricity from renewable sources
The special feature of an all-electric building is that even the heating is powered by electricity. ‘Implementation of an all-electric estate is challenging,’ explains Beate Mekiffer, ‘especially if your goal is to make it carbon-free, emissions-free, powered by renewable energies, and economically viable for the tenants.’ The system’s underlying idea is future-oriented and sustainable because 40 percent of today’s electricity in Germany is already being produced using renewable sources.
‘All-electric concepts have been implemented for residential buildings and estates. For technology-focused buildings, however, particularly those with lab and tech rooms, this is something new,’ says Mekiffer. On behalf of WISTA Management GmbH, she is head of the research project on the all-electric concept in cooperation with RWTH Aachen University and Free University Berlin (FU). RWTH is designing the energy system and planning the storage capacities, while the FU is surveying the demands of potential users and examining the various interests of the stakeholders involved.
‘Due to the type and usage of the premises, the challenges are much greater than with residential buildings, because labs have a considerably higher energy consumption than flats and offices,’ says Mekiffer. Seeing as electricity from renewable sources is currently still more expensive than conventional district heating, electricity costs must be managed by efficiency measures and a sound power purchasing policy. This includes a good grid system that saves network charges as well as storage technologies that prevent peak loads and store surplus green electricity from the grid.
The technological challenges of such an energy system, ensuring its viability, and the diversity of users make this a complex task and force all those involved to try new approaches in design as well as in planning and construction. The concept for a carbon and emissions-free technology estate that is currently being developed could then serve as a blueprint for similar projects. This is one reason why the project is receiving funding from the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs as part of its 7th Energy Research Programme.
The RWTH developed user profiles for offices, labs, and tech rooms based on the FUBIC’s planned usage zones. These consider use duration, use intensity, ventilation requirements, and annual outside air temperatures. On this basis, they assessed the energy needs of heating, technical equipment, lighting, and ventilation facilities. Using these figures, the RHTW assessed which system configuration would most efficiently cover the simulated consumption. Finally, this resulted in an implementation proposal for a system comprising heat pumps, floor heating, and storage facilities, the efficiency of which will be optimised using a cloud-based energy management system. The conclusion reached from all the technical and economic surveys was that ‘the all-electric system is very capable of covering FUBIC’s energy demands. It is technically possible, economically viable, and approvable,’ explains Mekiffer.
Of course, she is also aware of the objections against an energy concept based solely on electricity such as the fear of incurring high costs and power failures. However, intelligent energy supply systems react flexibly and according to demands and are equipped with good management and storage systems. A sound purchasing policy for green electricity can also contribute to minimising costs. Lastly, the effects of power failures on a building system that directs 30 percent of its entire electricity consumption into heating are much the same as buildings with conventional energy systems.
‘We have drafted and planned a system that can meet our requirements, is economically viable, and can be easily replicated all over Germany. It is not bound by specific local factors, such as geothermal energy, which is why it is easily transferrable,’ says Mekiffer. The concept of all-electric systems combined with renewable energy will be supported by plans to increase the price of carbon emissions. This will reduce the price of electricity from renewable sources compared to other supply options. ‘In the 1980s,’ says Beate Mekiffer, ‘electric heaters were frowned upon as inefficient energy and money gobblers. Now we live in an era when a transition to electricity-based heating is almost universally demanded, the all-electric system is the right path to a sustainable and climate-friendly future.
By Bettina Tacke for Potenzial – The WISTA Magazine