Renewable energy for the heating sector
Industrial heat pumps are big-scale devices that capture heat from a variety of sources, mainly sea-, river- and industrial wastewater, and repurpose it for other uses. Heat pumps can distribute heat and cold to a variety of end-users, including district heating and cooling. They can also make use of renewable electricity generation by converting it into heat and cold, which can then be stored. This ability makes them a crucial component of sector coupling.
Why are industrial heat pumps relevant to the industry?
When we talk about climate change the focus often falls on electricity generation, but heating and cooling account for almost 40 percent of the world’s carbon emissions. The sector is still heavily reliant on fossil fuels and is at the beginning
of its decarbonization journey. Heat pumps, instead of burning fossil fuels, make efficient use of heat sources such as lakes, rivers, sea, wastewater, industrial waste heat, as well as geothermal or ambient air. Another option is to use electricity
from renewable resources to drive the heat pumps, which makes the heat supply completely carbon-neutral.
MAN’s Electro-Thermal Energy Storage Solution (ETES) is based on the heat pump principle and can even reconvert the heat and cold back into electricity, providing a solution to the age-old problem of how to store variably-produced renewable electricity for when it’s needed most. The main difference between MAN’s ETES system and conventional heat pumps is scale. Conventional heat pumps are mostly small-scale and meant for single households, while MAN’s ETES system can serve thousands of households at once, unlocking the potential for CO2-neutral district heating.
Decarbonization of the global heating market is far below 10 percent – and bringing renewable energy into this market is an economical way to lower emissions.
What are the challenges for the technology?
Most of the challenges are economic. Though heat pumps require an initial investment, their value comes from capturing the energy that would otherwise be wasted or have to be produced separately. The profitability is directly related to the
temperature of the heat being used — the lower the temperature, the higher the profitability. Heat pumps have specific needs in order to effectively couple sectors. Among the most important requirements is the proximity to a reservoir that can absorb
heat, usually a large body of water.
Finally, there are regulatory hurdles. In Germany, for example, the pumps are still subject to the Renewable Energy Sources Act (“EEG-Umlage”). This surcharge is often the difference between a heat pump being economically viable or not.
What industrial heat pump projects does MAN Energy Solutions have in progress?
MAN Energy Solutions has its ETES (electro-thermal energy storage) solution, developed in cooperation with ABB Switzerland, which is at the cutting edge of what industrial heat pumps can do. This technology can not only generate up to 80 MW of thermal
energy per unit, but it can also convert stored heat and cold back to electricity. The technology works between temperatures of 0° - 150°C.
The ETES heat-pump system is a version of the electro-thermal energy-storage system and is currently being installed in the Danish port city of Esbjerg, where it will supply 100,000 local inhabitants with about 235,000 MWh of heat annually. MAN is also looking into implementing ETES heat pumps in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia.