Energy is the source of all life and all economies on this earth
Access to energy is the necessary requirement for all life and all economies on this earth. The energy supply is today mainly based on the finite resources of fossil fuels and on atomic energy. Serious side-effects and risks can not be simply ignored. But the efficient use of energy mostly only plays a role within the framework of short-term economic goals and strategies. Just a little more than 30 years after the so called oil crisis, worldwide recognition has been paid to the fact that the economical, ecological and socially sustainable production, distribution and use of energy is a key question for our future. All of humanity, all groups within it and all states and peoples are affected. What could be more obvious then, than to develop future solutions in cooperation and to take the necessary steps together? In this time of rapid globalization, this task – in addition to ensuring our existence and of providing economic advantages – also encourages the sense of community and peace among peoples and societies. Experience teaches us that states or even the world community as a whole, are reacting too slowly to the challenge of „energy supply and environmental protection“.
The use of regenerative energies as inexhaustible sources that are also environmentally friendly and socially compatible is the only key for a long-term, sustainable energy supply for humanity. The pioneering role of Germany in this regard is known to everyone. But this leading position has only been reached because since the middle of the 1970’s, individuals and various institutions and groups have used their vast level of commitment to gain profound knowledge in both theory and practice and have then used this in a multitude of real projects – despite significant resistance. Research and development, teaching and the transfer of knowledge in practical situations as well as close cooperation between industry and crafts also provide the necessary general conditions required for regenerative energies. It is exactly in such an environment of local cooperation and partnership that a stable network has evolved in Ulm over the last two decades. This has allowed the city of Ulm to gain a top position in Germany when it comes to the use of regenerative energies and fuel cells.
Regenerative energies and fuel cells
There is no sense in just wanting to use regenerative energies in place of conventional fossil fuels or atomic energy. Their position will be found much more within a totally pragmatic, market-oriented and cost-optimized mix with technologies designed to save energy (minimization of the energy requirement) and technologies geared at increasing energy efficiency (minimization of energy conversion losses). For this reason alone, knowledge about the use of regenerative energies must be much broader – in contrast to conventional energy sources. The future belongs to integrated approaches to planning whose limits are much broader; and it belongs to the macroeconomic evaluation of these approaches.
The simultaneous introduction of regenerative energies and of technologies for energy saving and energy efficiency means that conventional raw materials will be slowly phased out and substituted within the production process. This not only creates new products and new methods of production, but also new jobs. The first person to utilize these opportunities will prosper financially.
The energy sources within a sustainable energy industry will be the regenerative energies in all of their manifestations. During a transition period, fossil energies must/can be added. Among the regenerative energies are:
- solar radiation or its direct use by photovoltaic and solar-thermal energy
- water power and wind energy
- geothermal energy
A significant role in the practical use of regenerative energies must be assigned to the topic of energy storage. Fuel cells are not an energy source: they are energy converters of the highest order of energy efficiency which make practically pollutant-free electricity and heat available. They are therefore an important component within a regenerative power economy. Additional efficient technologies such as the use of calorific power, heat recovery, combined heat and power coupling, and the combination of current heat and cold using absorption machines complete the spectrum. The principle of an „integrated, total concept“ is the door-opener to the future. With the concept of the passive house, this principle was introduced in Gemany in the area of building and living within roughly just 10 years. Passive houses are buildings with minimal energy requirements and maximal energy efficiency that do not require traditional heating systems. In a minimum cost-mix, the following measures are all implemented both in terms of quality and of quantity within an integral planning process:
- highly insulated external envelopes without thermal bridges
- dense external envelope and comfortable aeration with heat recovery
- the use of passive-solar and internal heat gains energy saving concept. The remaining energy requirement is then covered with the highest rate of energy efficiency possible, based on regenerative energies.