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This week, Anne-Sophie Garrigou, journalist at The Beam, interviewed Wolfram Sparber, Head of the Institute for Renewable Energy at The European Academy of Bozen/Bolzano (EURAC), about the Institute and his thoughts on the future of renewable energy.

Wolfram Sparber: “The energy world is a complex system, where further evolutions in all main sectors are needed.”

This week, Anne-Sophie Garrigou, journalist at The Beam, interviewed Wolfram Sparber, Head of the Institute for Renewable Energy at The European Academy of Bozen/Bolzano (EURAC), about the Institute and his thoughts on the future of renewable energy.

copy-of-the-beam-interview-series-04

The Beam interview series, edition 5: Wolfram Sparber

To lighten up your week and give you even more energizing thoughts, we publish interviews from our partner The Beam twice a week.

The Beam takes a modern perspective at the energy transition, interviewing inspirational people from around the world that shape our sustainable energy future.

This week, Anne-Sophie Garrigou, journalist at The Beam, interviewed Wolfram Sparber, Head of the Institute for Renewable Energy at The European Academy of Bozen/Bolzano (EURAC), about the Institute and his thoughts on the future of renewable energy.

wolfram-sparber

What are the main goals of the Institute for Renewable Energy of EURAC Research?

EURAC Research is a private research center located in Bolzano, South Tyrol. The aim of the Institute for Renewable Energy is to carry out applied research on advanced energy systems to support the application of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies and assist decision-makers through scientific consultancy. The field of activities are energy efficiency in buildings, working as well in the niche application of historic buildings, sustainable heating and cooling systems, PV systems and energy systems on urban and regional scale. The Institute works closely with industry partners and other research centers in order to develop new energy systems, applications and products.

What technological breakthroughs will make a big change in the field of production and storage of renewable energy?

In our opinion, there will not be one unique technology, which will change the energy scheme. The energy world is a complex system, where further evolutions in all main sectors are needed. We have to consider electricity, heating & cooling as well as transportation. Evolutions in the field of energy production, distribution, storage and efficient consumption is necessary.

In the field of electricity production, it is necessary to apply existing technologies on a large scale in order to widely substitute fossil fuels in the coming decades. Technology evolution will contribute to continue the cost reduction curves of recent years.

Regarding storage, in our opinion, distributed storage possibilities (e.g. electric vehicles) and application of demand side management will keep the necessity of large-scale centralized storage infrastructure limited.

A large potential exists and has until now been tapped in a limited way in the field of energy efficiency measures and application of renewable technologies in the heating sector. This sector is the most important in terms of ‘final energy consumption’ in Europe because it accounts for over 40%. The big question here is how to bring the technologies and methods for building refurbishment from single buildings to massive and large scale applications in a cost effective way. In this field, we are working on several projects in the development of prefabricated multifunctional façades. The target is to produce individual façade components in an industrial way, including cost control and quality assurance. The façade should allow high energy efficiency, high comfort, attractive aesthetics, eventually the integration of solar active elements, heat distribution systems or air ventilation systems. Furthermore the disturbance time during construction on site for the tenants living in the building should be reduced to single days. This is possible as large scale prefabricated elements are fixed on the existing walls of the building.

Through district heating networks, thermal storage, cogeneration and heat pumps it is further possible to interlink and optimize the thermal and electrical grid management. In this field we are working, for example, on very low temperature district heating systems with multiple heat sources, in combination with heat pumps allowing to reduce heat losses of the grid and to better integrate waste heat from the industry or service sector (flexynets.eu).

According to your research, which branch of renewable energy offers the best hope for our energy future?

Again, there is not a single branch; the potential of a renewable energy source or system is strictly related to the characteristics and the circumstances of a given country.

Electricity from solar PV and wind has shown in recent years in many countries how substantial their contribution can be. Geothermal energy and solar thermal power plants are in many geographical areas used only in a limited way. Biomass and biogas plants can be integrated well in regional energy concepts.

With regard to heating and cooling, advanced district heating systems offer the possibility to include several renewable energy sources and waste heat sources, and to deliver this energy to the point of consumption. Solar thermal and geothermal systems have a large potential, which is still widely unexploited in Europe. On single building level, heat pumps will probably play a relevant role in the next years.

Read the full interview here.

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Written By

The Beam Magazine is an independent climate solutions and climate action magazine. It tells about the most exciting solutions, makes a concrete contribution to eliminating climate injustices and preserving this planet for all of us in its diversity and beauty. Our cross-country team of editors works with a network of 150 local journalists in 50 countries talking to change makers and communities. THE BEAM is published in Berlin and distributed in nearly 1,000 publicly accessible locations, to companies, organizations and individuals in 40 countries across the world powered by FairPlanet.

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