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Relocating Renewables Could Save Europe Billions

Power generation solutions provider Siemens has analysed the electrical power producing systems located across Europe and found “considerable potential for optimisation, especially in connection with plans to expand power generation from renewable energy sources.”

Image Credit: Siemens

Image Credit: Siemens

The primary manner in which this “optimisation” could come about is by changing the location of renewable power plants.

According to Siemens, if power plants were built in locations that offered the highest possible power yields an approximate EUR 45 billion of investment in renewables could be saved by 2030.

Compare that with the EUR 10 billion invested into new solar and wind power generation installations in Germany in 2012 and you begin to get a picture of what is possible when location is brought into the equation.

“In Europe, just the new photovoltaic capacity alone to be built by 2030 amounts to about 138 gigawatts,” said Michael Süß, member of the Corporate Executive Committee of Siemens AG and CEO of Siemens’ Energy Sector at the first European Energy Congress in Brussels. “If these facilities were erected at the sunniest sites, we could save 39 gigawatts of solar equipment – for the same power yield. The choice of site is crucial to the efficiency and economy of wind power, as well.”

Siemens is working in cooperation with the Technical University of Munich to study energy systems across the planet in the hopes of ascertaining their utilisation rate of resources, reliability of supply, sustainability, and cost efficiency. The study aims to precisely identify and quantify the losses as a result of inefficiencies in energy systems and markets, as well as to propose possible solutions.

Image Credit: Siemens

Image Credit: Siemens

The ongoing study has pinpointed four main levers for optimising energy systems:

  • Local optimization of renewable power installations: This means exploiting regional power generation potentials to the full, and involves finding the best sites for solar installations, hydropower storage facilities and wind power farms, and expanding the grids to match.
  • Enhancing the efficiency of the power system as a whole: For instance, the average efficiency of coal-fired power plants in Europe is only 38 percent, whereas modern plants can reach up to 46 percent. Installing more efficient electrical equipment in industry and households would cut CO2 emissions and costs even further.
  • Improvements in the power plant mix: Switching from coal fuel to gas-fired power plants would considerably reduce the volumes of carbon dioxide emitted by conventional power generation. This alone implies an annual CO2 savings potential of 365 million tons in Europe. That is equivalent to half of all emissions in Germany.
  • More use of electric power for energy needs: Instead of generating power locally at low efficiency and burning oil and natural gas to heat buildings, power could be generated more efficiently in large-scale power plants, and high-efficiency electrical heating systems could be used in thermally insulated houses – at least in regions with broad-scale power grid coverage.
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