Case Studies: Energy efficiency

EU members need to make energy savings to meet efficiency targets, and this will require improvements at all stages of the energy chain, from production and distribution to the devices that use it. The energy generated from both conventional plants and new technologies could be increased, and the power losses that occur over transmission could be reduced, by using more efficient systems. New, light-weight materials have the potential to reduce power usage in construction and engineering sectors.  Lighting and transportation are major users of electricity, the introduction of low-power LEDs, more efficient fuels or rechargeable vehicles will do much to reduce this. Furthermore, the production of unwanted heat or vibration by electrical devices wastes a large proportion of the energy needed for their operation, re-capturing this would reduce energy consumption. Advances in all these areas requires new traceable measurements methods, reference materials and documentary standards to support improved performance.

Improving power plant efficiency

KROHNE, a leading manufacturer of industrial process instrumentation, has developed a new improved ultrasonic flow meter to monitor power plant processes. Through participation in the EMRP project Metrology for improved power plant efficiency, KROHNE used a newly-developed meter design together with a calibration device developed within the EMRP project. This calibration device simulates typical plant operating conditions to demonstrate the meter’s accuracy. The validation of the technology using the new calibration device provided KROHNE with the impetus and confidence to start production of the ultrasonic flow meter.

E.ON, another project collaborator, has purchased and installed KROHNE’s device in a nuclear power plant in Sweden for evaluation, in part due to the promising results of the project. Preliminary indications are that efficiencies in plant operation resulting from the device’s use would be equivalent to around 60 MW, approximately the amount of electricity required to power thousands of extra homes. This is a significant improvement in plant efficiency, and given Europe’s dependence on large-scale power plants for the foreseeable future, an important contribution to the efforts to reduce Europe’s carbon footprint.

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Faster solar cell product development

Recent growth in solar electricity generation capacity was achieved in part from subsidies, that reduced silicon cell costs by stimulating manufacturing efficiencies. Future cost reductions may need to be driven by increased cell efficiency. Multi-junction solar cells are used in high-end space applications where compactness and efficiency are critical requirements. Higher efficiencies could result in such cells becoming cost-competitive with conventional energy sources, but development was slowed by an impractical standard calibration method.

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New standard for safer, greener roads

The Italian standards organisation (UNI) has incorporated research performed within the EMRP project Metrology for solid-state lighting into a new standard for the illumination of road tunnels, optimizing the lighting requirements in the tunnel internal zone and at night.

The new UNI standard enables the safe introduction of LED lighting into Italian road tunnels and has enabled a significant reduction in the consumption of electrical power for tunnel lighting. LEDs operating at the new safe lighting levels identified within the project have contributed a further 33 % saving in electricity consumption. With LED lighting already introduced into approximately 95 % of Italy’s 1,500 km of highway road tunnel network, this standard will lead to safer roads with significantly reduced power consumption and associated CO2 emissions.  

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Energy harvesting for greener transport

German manufacturer, Netzsch, has developed a precision instrument for measuring electrical conductivity and the Seebeck coefficient – a material property which strongly influences the efficiency and power output of a thermoelectric generator. Netzsch is marketing the instrument with a new reference material developed in the EMRP project Metrology for energy harvesting. Together, these products enable automotive manufacturers to reliably assess the performance of thermoelectric materials developed for use in energy harvesting devices.

The reference material will give Netzsch’s customers confidence that the thermal efficiency measurements they make agree with national standards in place to ensure accuracy and consistency, enabling potential customers to better compare products. Netzsch’s product provides the measurement capability needed to accelerate development and uptake of improved thermoelectric generators within the automotive industry. By making Europe’s vehicles more efficient, energy harvesting technology has the potential to reduce one of the most significant contributions to Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions.

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