News / Press

02. September 2021

Heating with electricity – FUBIC will be a ‘lighthouse’ project for the Energiewende

In the future innovation centre, offices, labs, and co-working spaces will be supplied with climate-neutral electricity

© WISTA Management GmbH/Visualisation: Heinle, Wischer und Partner, Freie Architekten
WISTA project manager Christoph Böttger © WISTA Management GmbH

The FUBIC innovation centre is currently being built in Berlin-Dahlem. It will be one of the first electricity-only technology quarters in Germany. The ambitious project will also serve as a blueprint for building further emissions-free quarters. The underlying concept has now been completed and is ready to be set in motion.

Heating with electricity? Not so long ago, this idea would have been dismissed as a wasteful lunacy in terms of money and energy. With Germany’s transition to clean energy on the horizon, however, producing heat with electricity is being brought back into focus—and more clever ways of doing so, too. Like those at FUBIC (Business and Innovation Center next to Freie Universität Campus), a technology and start-up centre that WISTA Management GmbH is planning to build in Berlin-Dahlem.

The former US military hospital will be the cornerstone of an Innovation Campus covering 5 hectares. As an electricity-only project, it is to serve as proof that non-residential buildings including technology and laboratory facilities can meet all their energy needs using carbon-neutral and emissions-free electricity.

“FUBIC is one of our ‘lighthouse’ projects for the Energiewende, Germany’s transition to clean energy,” says Christoph Böttger, responsible at WISTA for innovative infrastructure projects. A large part of this country’s heating for buildings is still generated from fossil energy sources, while the electricity sector is now generating as much as half of its electricity from renewable sources—and rising. Which is why Böttger thinks it imperative to use carbon-neutral electricity for the heating and cooling of buildings: “If we don’t, we will not be able to make a meaningful change in the heating sector.”

The concept has recently been completed and lays out how FUBIC’s offices, labs, and several co-working spaces, offering space for up to 800 employees, will be supplied with climate-neutral electricity.

In addition to green energy from the public grid, a photovoltaics facility with 720 modules on the main building’s roof will produce “homemade” electricity, all of which will be used up by FUBIC itself. Electricity that isn’t used can be temporarily stored in a battery. This integral energy system featuring various storage facilities for heating, cooling, and electricity is a testament to the technology building of the future: the interlinking of the sectors electricity, heat supply, and traffic.

It is likely that additional buildings will be created around the FUBIC premises by companies from the life sciences, health as well as information and communication technology. Using a needs-based approach and a ring-circuit, the electricity produced in the neighbourhood could be distributed within it. However, the legal framework for this hasn’t yet been created. “Should that change in the near future, we could create our own little power grid,” explains Böttger. “After all, to us, this project is not about an individual building. We want to show that it is possible to produce, store, and distribute electricity all within a local neighbourhood.” It will then be possible to expand the battery storage systems, thus creating new options for demand-based and load-sensitive energy distribution.

Compared with the use of district heating, simulation models show that FUBIC’s energy system will save around 997 tonnes of CO2 emissions. The research project FUBIC-ALL-ELECTRICITY receives scientific support of RWTH Aachen University and Free University Berlin. Future implementation of the project is complemented by energy providers like the BTB Blockheizkraftwerks-Träger- und Betreibergesellschaft mbH Berlin and aedifion GmbH, a software provider for energy management systems (EMS). Böttger: “A cloud-based EMS maximises the efficiency of the grid, which consists of heating and cooling systems, electrical floor heating, charging stations, ventilation systems, and energy storage.” This, too, can be expanded in every direction.

Berlin’s pioneering electrical-only project is funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and will serve as a blueprint for other quarters all over Germany.

Whenever Böttger showcases the project, he hears concerns over the price tag on this solution faced with high and rising electricity prices. Not only intelligent energy management and self-produced electricity speak against it, says Böttger, but also the fact that high carbon prices will be put on fossil fuels in the future. “Prices for gas and district heating will continue to rise, meaning that carbon-neutral electricity will also become more attractive,” says Böttger with conviction.

Chris Löwer for POTENZIAL – The WISTA Magazine

Potenzial – The WISTA Magazine. Edition: Energy Efficiency 2021