Dedication to sustainability that thoroughly deserves recognition – on October 6, 2021, Steinbeis presented the team at the Steinbeis Innovation Center energyplus and its project partners with the Steinbeis Foundation’s Transfer Award – the Löhn Award – at the Steinbeis House for Management and Technology in Hohenheim, Stuttgart.
The award-winning project is based on the principle of domestic electricity generation using renewable energy, local hydrogen production, and waste heat utilization to supply heating to the district. The approach goes back to an integrated energy and sustainability concept developed by the Steinbeis Innovation Center energyplus under the direction of Professor Dr.-Ing. M. Norbert Fisch. Green hydrogen is fed into the local gas network, making an important contribution to reducing the carbon footprint of the energy sector. Waste heat generated by water electrolysis is fed into the local heating network. At the heart of the project lies a “real-life laboratory” for the green energy transition – an urban district measuring 12 hectares, comprising around 500 residential properties, offices, commercial buildings, and a new building for Esslingen University of Applied Sciences. The overarching aim is to create an urban district that is almost carbon-neutral. The project defines carbon-neutral as achieving annual carbon emissions for housing and travel of under one ton per capita. This should be achieved, among other things, by reducing energy requirements, using a large number of solar installations (peak generation approx. 1,500 kilowatts), recovering waste heat from hydrogen production, and importing biomethane for use in combined heat and power plants (CHP). A key element of the system for supplying the district with energy is a hydrogen electrolyzer with an output of 1,000 kWel. Electricity needed by the district will be supplied by PV systems installed on roofs, with a major share coming from generation plants, which will supply surplus renewable electricity from outside via the national grid. Waste heat from the electrolyzer will be used to meet around half of the heating requirements of housing units, commercial buildings, and the university via a local heating network. This will raise the annual efficiency of electrolysis to roughly 85 to 90%. The idea of building a climate-neutral urban district was first mooted in 2015, followed by a long planning, approval, and construction process. A celebration marking the point of going live for the hydrogen production facility took place with the funding agencies in June 2021. The project was funded to the tune of €12 million by the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology and the Federal Ministry of Research and Education, as part of an initiative called Solar Construction/Energy-Efficient City.