Weekly Spotlight on Energy Research

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The "Weekly Spotlight on Energy Research" highlights current research projects of ESC members. Every week we add a new research project.


Next Generation Catalysts for Polymer Electrolyte Fuel Cells

Electric vehicles powered by hydrogen polymer electrolyte fuel cells are one option to move towards a low emission transport sector. To decrease the cost of such devices, further research on the various fuel cell components is pursued in academia in industry. Read more 


Electricity storage through air compression in the Swiss Alps

Electricity is increasingly generated from renewable sources like solar and wind. Because these sources are not available around the clock, it is necessary to store electricity. Researchers from ETH and other institutions are exploring the storage of electricity by storing compressed air in caverns in the Swiss Alps. Read more 


Avoiding Fatigue Cracks in High Temperature Power Plants Components

The extension of pre-existing or in-service generated defects by fatigue can be avoided in high temperature power plant components by informed mechanical analysis which fully acknowledges the influences of oxidation and creep interactions.  This is the focus of the HTFCGT (Fatigue Crack Growth Threshold Stress Intensity Factors in Power Plant Materials at High Temperatures) project. Read more 


Ninjas serve open data, enabling new insights for the energy transition

The world’s electricity systems are rapidly evolving with the deployment of weather-dependent solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind generation. Yet their variability at different scales is still poorly understood. The Renewables.ninja project is addressing this gap and making the resulting high-quality, validated PV and wind simulations freely available online. Read more 


Water quality changes by hydropower reservoirs

Today, half of the global runoff is passing through reservoirs and this fraction is increasing. A new project addresses the question how hydropower schemes are changing downstream water quality. Read more 


Phasing out fossil fuel subsidies through policy combinations

Fossil fuel subsidies have major economic and environmental downsides. ETH Zurich’s Energy Politics Group (EPG) aims at identifying strategies that can overcome the political, economic and technological lock-in that make subsidy reform so difficult. Read more 


3D GIS for planning electric power systems

Europe’s energy suppliers need to expand or renew their grid to provide decentralized energy supply and to fulfill future requirements concerning grid stability. But where should future power lines be located? The current project of ETH Zurich tackles this issue by developing a 3D Decision Support System (3D DSS). Read more 


Simulating Complex Turbulent Combustion in Novel Gas Turbine Combustors

A research project focusing on sequential combustion technologies for gas turbine applications is conducted at the CAPS laboratory. These new systems will respond to the more and more pressing demand for increased fuel and operational flexibility. One of the main scientific challenges is to reliably simulate these turbulent reacting flows. Read more 


Unlocking the Geothermal Energy Hidden Inside the Earth: Seismic Properties as a Function of Reservoir Conditions

In contrast to other renewable energy resources, geothermal reservoirs are hidden at several kilometers depth beneath our feet. During the past decades, seismic exploration methods have been established as a common non-invasive tool to observe the Earth’s interior. To enable the investigation of geothermal reservoirs with seismic techniques, we have established how seismic parameters are linked with the hydraulic permeability of the rocks and the energetic state of the saturating fluids. Read more 


Evaluating Reserves Performance for Aiding Renewable Electricity Integration

The goal of this work is to compare the costs and performance metrics of various reserve dimensioning methods and develop suggestions for optimal new methods that also account for integration of renewables. Read more 


Optimizing the Chilled Ammonia Process for CO2 Capture

The Chilled Ammonia Process (CAP) is a CO2 capture technology that enables drastic emission reductions from power plants and from CO2 - intensive industries. The possible formation of solid NH4 HCO3 represents an operational challenge, but also an opportunity for lowering cost and energy penalty. Our project aims at enhancing the performance of the CAP through controlled solid formation. Read more 


Modelling Solutions for a More Energy Efficient Future of Buildings

To realize the goals of the Swiss Energy Strategy 2050, buildings have to become more energy efficient and the share of renewable energy sources have to increase. This requires solutions to optimally transform buildings through combined retrofitting and renewable energy solutions and to make them fit for the integration into multi-energy networks. Read more 


Higher Price, Lower Costs? Introducing Minimum Carbon Prices in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme

While emissions trading systems (ETS) have become centerpieces of market-based environmental regulation in many countries, they suffer from two major issues. First, they typically cover only a subset of emissions thereby undermining static cost-effectiveness of pollution control as marginal abatement costs are not equalized across all sources. Read more 


Humans in the Loop: A Joint Approach for Technical Optimization and Behavioral Participation for Building Energy Efficiency

Efficient building energy management has attracted a great interest due to significant potential energy savings. One obvious challenge is how to combine the efforts by engineers on improving the energy management system with approaches of social scientists to integrate the occupants actively in the energy management system. Read more 


Estimating the Savings Potential of Smart Household Thermostats

Heating is the main contributor to energy consumption in households. However, many heating systems still run on fixed schedules, ignoring the fact that heating is in principle only necessary when the home is occupied. Modern sensor-based smart thermostats try to optimize this situation. But when do the expected savings justify the installation of occupancy-aware systems? Read more 


IT-Enabled Behavior Change at the Water-Energy Nexus

Traditional approaches to foster resource conservation include efficiency (infrastructure) upgrades, price increases, and information campaigns. In the past few years, behavioral interventions have received attention as politically feasible and cost-effective alternative solution. A field study with 2120 participants in Singapore assesses the effectiveness of real-time feedback to mitigate water scarcity. Read more 


Protecting Consumer Privacy in the Age of the Smart Meter

The advent of the smart meter in electricity grids opens the door to new grid management opportunities. However, information derivable from the resultant high-resolution data raise concerns regarding consumer privacy. Using energy storage and local generation, this project aims to protect consumer privacy, while preserving the benefits of smart meters. Read more 


Sustainable Waste and Secondary Resource Management to Support the Energy Turnaround (wastEturn)

wastEturn aims to optimise the contribution of Swiss waste management to the “Energy Turnaround”, that is, the shift from non-renewable to renewable sources and reduction in overall energy consumption. The project looks beyond direct energy contribution by also analysing indirect savings, while considering environmental performance, financial viability, and political feasibility. Read more 


Radical innovation for low energy concrete structures

“Low Energy Concrete”, a project supported by SNF, has been set-up to look into the improvement potential of building materials by developing low-energy construction products. A new generation of Portland cement with clinker substitution up to 65% has been defined, able to decrease up to 60% the energy needed for manufacturing. Read more 


Temperature Dependent Capacity Utilization for Enhanced Reliability of Overhead-lines

The TeKaF project (German acronym for temperature dependent capacity utilization for overhead-lines) aims to increase reliability, safety, and capacity of the Swiss electric transmission grid. As the electrical power transfer is increasing, a dynamic evaluation of the maximum transmission capacity of the existing overhead-lines is desired. The maximum current and thus the resulting conductor temperature is influenced by local weather conditions. Read more 


How efficient are Swiss households?

Energy efficiency is one of the pillars of the ’Energy Strategy 2050’ and therefore an important issue next to new renewables. However, how efficient are we already now? At the Centre for Energy Policy and Economics (CEPE) we try to answer this question at least for households.  Read more 


Integrated Energy Systems Modelling Platform (Nexus)

The objective of this project is to develop an integrated modelling platform for assessing energy systems that cuts across the boundaries of established fields of knowledge by combining existing and new models. The Nexus project aims to study complex and interdisciplinary questions about the impact of technical, socio-economic and political decisions on the performance of the future energy system Read more 


Integration of RES in the Swiss distribution grid

The ISCHESS project studies the optimal transformation of the Swiss energy supply towards a more sustainable system through the integration of Renewable Energy Sources (RES). The first project phase evaluates the impact of RES at the Swiss distribution grid level. The second project phase extends the study to the national scale of the Swiss transmission grid. Read more 


Electrical Energy Storage in Private Households – A Curse or a Blessing?

Storing electrical energy in private households becomes increasingly popular. If many households still demand electricity from the grid, there is a destabilizing effect due to variable quantities of privately produced electricity. On the other hand, private production unburdens the grid. Is private households’ energy storage hence a curse or a blessing? Read more 


Cost Benefit Analysis of Smart Grids

This project focuses on fundamental, cross-cutting issues that will provide a better understanding of Smart Grid ecosystems among stakeholders. It seeks to establish interfaces with existing networks/initiatives, establishing synergies and avoiding duplication of ongoing activities. Read more 


Die Zukunft der Energiespeicher: Trends und offene Fragen

Speicherung hat schon immer eine wichtige Rolle im Energieversorgungssystem gespielt. Während die Speicherung fossiler Energien (beispielsweise Öl, Kohle und bis zu einem gewissen Grad Erdgas) einigermassen einfach bewerkstelligt werden kann, so ist die direkte Speicherung von Elektrizität nicht möglich.   Read more 


Energy in Global Security Policies

Low oil prices, changes in natural gas market structures and a whole set of new suppliers: Global energy markets have seen massive changes over the last five years. This also changes the geopolitical constellation of supplier and consumer countries – new security challenges are emerging. Read more 


The Hybrid Transformer - Towards a Smarter Grid

With the target to reduce CO2 emissions, conventional large scale power plants will be gradually replaced by distributed renewables. The increasing integration of these renewables entails power quality problems such as voltage fluctuations especially in the 400V low voltage distribution grid. New concepts as the hybrid transformer enable to maintain the desired power quality even with a high share of renewable generation.  Read more 


Plug and Play Load Control for a Sustainable Distribution Grid

Demand-side management will play a key role for improving reliability and efficiency in an increasingly complex grid, balancing large demands, e.g., caused by electric vehicles. We develop techniques that automatically compute optimal load profiles, taking into account network and user requirements, and most importantly varying load connectivity. Read more 


Wind-Farm-Scale Measurements Using Mobile-Based LiDAR

45% of electricity generated from renewables by 2030 is targeted in Europe. As wind-generated electricity will be a substantial portion of this new generation, reducing the cost of wind-generated electricity is imperative. We have developed a novel large-scale measurement system that provides for optimised micrositing of wind turbines in new wind farms. Read more 


Price of Power System Stability

Control reserves are power generation or consumption entities that ensure balance of supply and demand of electricity in real-time. The reserves are procured through a market mechanism in which entities provide bids on power capacities and corresponding prices. We have been developing game theory, control and optimization methods to address efficiency of these markets. Read more 


Large-Scale Simulation of Cloud Cavitation Collapse

Reduction in CO2 emission of internal combustion engines is of paramount importance. Efficient combustion requires precise liquid fuel injection control and enhanced fuel-air mixing. This implies high injection pressures which cause undesired cavitation phenomena. Simulations of cloud cavitation collapse are performed to gain detailed insights into this deleterious process. Read more 


Smart All-SiC Solid-State Transformers

Future applications such as high-speed trains or medium-voltage DC collecting grids for wind parks require a galvanic isolation between a medium-voltage system and a low-voltage system, yet the available space is constrained. Compared to conventional solutions employing conventional passive low-frequency transformers, solid-state transformers (SSTs) based on novel silicon carbide (SiC) power semiconductors provide supreme performance in terms of efficiency and power density. Read more 


Deep large-scale underground experiments for the development of Deep Geothermal Energy

Deep Geothermal Energy is a fundamental component of the Energy Strategy 2050 of Switzerland – expected to produce at least 7% of the present demand of electricity, or 4.4 TWh in 2050. To reach this target, we need to show that deep geothermal energy can be extracted safely and at competitive costs. To demonstrate this capacity, we initiated large-scale in-situ stimulation and circulation experiments in the Grimsel Test Site. Read more 


The risk of cascading failures in power systems

Economic activities strongly depend on critical energy infrastructures, e.g. the electric power system. Failures in the electric infrastructure not only cause power supply disruption, but also produce losses across the dependent economic sectors. This project models cascading failures in power systems and captures their impact to society and industrial sectors. Read more 


WINDMIL - Smart Monitoring, Inspection and Life-Cycle Assessment of Wind Turbines

ERC Starting Grant project WINDMIL aims to establish a smart framework for life-cycle assessment of Wind Turbines (WTs), guiding the management of these assets from cradle-to-grave. The project couples easily deployed and affordable sensor technology with state-of-the-art numerical modeling and data processing tools for diagnosing condition and predicting residual life. Read more 


Energy System Integration Platform goes into operation

Until the year 2050, the Swiss energy system is set to be restructured. The integration of electricity from photovoltaics and wind presents a major challenge to the power networks. With the Energy System Integration (ESI) Platform, an experimental platform is coming on line where promising approaches to the conversion and storage of renewable energy are brought together. Read more 


The hydraulics of low-level outlet structures of large dams

Bottom outlets are a key safety device of dams with the purpose of discharging water in a timely and quantitatively defined volume without causing damage. The high-velocity flow in bottom outlets requires sufficient aeration to avoid cavitation damage. This project aims at developing design guidelines to ensure the safe and reliable operation of bottom outlets. Read more 


Limiting climate change to 2°C requires zero CO2 emissions by the end of the century

In December 2015, the world’s governments have decided to limit global warming to well below 2°C relative to about 1850, and to pursue efforts towards an even lower target of 1.5°C. Climate scientists associated with the Energy Science Center are modeling both the climate impacts for such scenarios as well as the emission pathways that would be required to achieve those goals. Read more 


Defaults in Green Electricity Markets – Preference Match not Guaranteed

Defaults, nudging you into a specific behavior if no active choice is taken, are popular in various fields like for instance organ donation or healthy food displays. Several electric utilities have now started to sell green electricity via default contracts. Such defaults are intended to increase the demand for more environmentally friendly electricity. Read more 

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Mon Jun 26 06:41:57 CEST 2017
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