Case Studies: Energy generation and security

The European Union has set binding targets that 32 % of energy used should be from renewable sources by 2030. This requires that the energy from these increases while power from conventional energy is wound down.

However, many challenges still exist for each source of energy. Solar power has grown significantly since the 1990s but discrepancies between the estimated and the actual energy generated has been a factor limiting its uptake. Wind turbine gear mechanisms can suffer damage in use from small surface defects undetected during manufacturing quality assurance due to a lack of traceable measurement standards. Biofuels need improved measurement methods to demonstrate conformity to EU directives before they can enter the existing supply infrastructure. Similar quality concerns are also slowing the uptake of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) - a cleaner, alternative to fossil fuel diesel for heavy duty transportation fleets.

Developing the technology to support hydrogen as a clean energy fuel

To reduce reliance on fossil fuels and mitigate the worst effects of climate change requires the adoption of alternative sources of energy. Integral to this transition is the use of the clean energy gas hydrogen. This however relies on improved methods to detect unwanted contaminants that can potentially damage both the gas infrastructure and hydrogen vehicles.

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Ensuring biogas quality for gas grids

Diversifying Europe’s energy supply by introducing more biogas and biomethane will reduce reliance on imported natural gas and help achieve greater energy security. However, these gases, produced from effluents and landfill sites, must meet stringent quality requirements laid out in EU Directives before entering the gas supply network. Accurately determining impurities using reliable and standardised measurement methods is essential to speed their introduction.

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Improved calibrations for solar cells

Solar power offers the potential to be the world’s largest source of power by 2050. This would require the adoption of new technologies; including materials other than just silicon or cells composed of multiple layers to increase efficiencies. To validate the performance of these advanced solar cells, essential to promote the uptake of this type of renewable energy, will require new or improved reference cells for calibrating them.

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New standards for solar power

Europe aims to generate at least 32 % of energy from renewables by 2030 and solar power will significantly contribute to meeting this target. It has been estimated however that for each percentage point of uncertainty between the predicted to actual energy yield by photovoltaics equates to a financial uncertainty worth €500 M a year globally. Decreasing this will reduce financial risks for investors and stimulate uptake of this technology.

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Improving wind turbine reliability

Wind power capacity has grown rapidly over the last decade and will need to continue to grow in line with efforts to meet EU targets for renewable energy generation. However, manufacturing quality issues of the gearing used in wind turbines limited overall reliability and returns on investment. Manufacturers lacked suitable measurement standards for these large components, while the complexities of measuring gear quality undermined confidence in measurement solutions.

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Reliable measurement of turbine gears

Wind-powered electricity generation capacity grew rapidly over the last decade and will need to continue to grow to help meet future targets of the EU’s renewable energy directive. However, manufacturing quality issues of the gearing used in wind turbines limited overall reliability and, therefore, returns on investment. Manufacturers lacked processes for producing measurement standards for these large components, while written standards didn’t suit the complexities of measuring gear quality.

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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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Future-proofing Europe’s gas networks

Michell Instruments, a leading supplier of humidity instrumentation, has developed a novel optical device to measure water content specifically for the gas industry. Working with the EMRP project Characterisation of energy gases, Michell Instruments used a new humidity facility developed as part of the project to evaluate the instrument’s performance at the highest levels of accuracy relevant to their target market. This not only gave Michell confidence in the product’s performance but also provided robust evidence to support their marketing and sales activities.

The product was launched in 2014 and has been installed in a number of locations worldwide. The improved performance of Michell’s instrument offers network operators improved confidence in the quality of gas they buy and sell while avoiding unnecessary and costly drying processes before the gas is injected into the network.  Besides improving efficiency and confidence across Europe’s existing gas networks, the new instrument paves the way for a range of gas mixtures, readying the network for a more renewable, secure gas future.

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Supporting biofuel-ready vehicles

The EMRP project Metrology for biofuels developed a reference method for determining the pH value of the most commonly used biofuel, bioethanol (pHe). This serves as a best practice example for measuring pHe, which can be used as a quick and simple indicator of bioethanol’s corrosiveness - a property of crucial concern for engine manufacturers. These practices have since been incorporated into a new ISO standard, enabling users to make pHe measurements of the highest accuracy and reliably compare them across the world.

This will enable researchers to confidently assess the corrosive effects of bioethanol on materials being developed for use in next-generation engines, built to withstand biofuel blends. Accelerating the development of biofuel-ready engines, and encouraging consumer confidence, is an important step towards widespread adoption of biofuels and meeting the obligations of the Renewable Energy Directive, which requires 10 % of the transport fuel of every EU country to come from renewable sources such as biofuels.

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Diversifying Europe's energy supply

The EMRP project Metrology for Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) developed a new primary flow standard. This will be used to provide traceability to the mid-scale LNG calibration facility, enabling flow meters used in the transfer and sale of LNG to be calibrated with top-class accuracy under typical operating conditions. Guidance documents issued by the International Organization of Legal Metrology (OIML) are currently undergoing revision to include a new section on LNG transfer flow metering developed within the project. Project interactions with ISO standard committees is enabling the inclusion of LNG measurements and flow metering systems into the documentary standards that underpin the International Group of Liquefied Natural Gas Importers Handbook used throughout the LNG industry.

This infrastructure will help to ensure fair and open trade of LNG, reducing financial risks and resulting in more stable energy prices. Increased adoption of LNG, which is more economical to transport over large distances and facilitates the supply of natural gas from new sources, could play a major role in diversifying Europe’s energy supply.

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