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The production machinery and building system technology in the model factory are energetically networked. The holistic approach of Phi Factory also envisages the new factory compensating supply fluctuations in the grid.
© Gerhard Hirn, BINE Informationsdienst


The Eta Factory's kinetic energy storage system for peak smoothing will be fitted with a lithium-ion battery to form a hybrid storage system in the Phi Factory.
© Gerhard Hirn, BINE Informationsdienst

Networked factory stabilises the grid

The factory of the future is flexible and networks the energy flows between machinery and buildings. The so-called Phi Factory is not only very energy-efficient, it also helps stabilise the electrical supply grid. The new model factory relies on a high share of renewable energy and helps smooth out electricity supply fluctuations.

The Phi Factory project, funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi), was launched on December 1, 2016. The new model factory is being built at the Technical University (TU) Darmstadt. Three institutes of TU Darmstadt are involved, along with two smaller and four larger companies. The researchers aim to demonstrate how industrial enterprises, in particular those in energy-intensive industries such as metal processing and automotive and mechanical engineering, can contribute to stabilising the future electricity grid with its high share of renewable energy. The aim is to develop a flexible electrical network control for factories that would allow for the control of energy input according to the requirements of future distribution grids with a high share of regenerative energies, and which would raise energy efficiency across systems. The components and solutions developed in the Phi Factory project are integrated into the existing Eta Factory of TU Darmstadt, where they are being put to practical tests.

Factories support distribution grids

The project partners are developing new technologies and control software that allow for a time-variable power input and output for factories that is adapted to match grid and generation capacities. The factory can functionally support the local distribution grid and in doing so, it can contribute to the integration of volatile renewable energies. In addition to the production of goods, it performs tasks such as peak load smoothing, dynamic reactive power compensation, self-consumption increase and the provision of balancing power. Another aim is to make the model factory ready for use in an isolated grid in order to enable emergency operation for up to one hour. The project combines lithium-ion batteries as electrochemical energy storage systems for low-frequency load peaks with a flywheel installed in the Eta Factory serving as a kinetic energy storage for rapid, heavy load fluctuations in the range of milliseconds and seconds.

Energy saving potential and load control

Production facilities and industrial processes harbour an untapped potential to make energy consumption become more flexible. Flexible loads at the user ends in industry and commerce become usable for the entire power supply system through load control, also referred to as demand-side management (DSM). DSM can help regulate the demand for grid-based services. And even more: Factories could provide ancillary services for grid stability purposes. For example, if they were to implement start-up processes, order sequencing, break times, and used energy sources in a flexible manner as needed.

For this reason, the researchers want to tap into the load shifting potential: The DSM potential of the German industry alone is about 2.7 gigawatts with a capacity of about 800 megawatt hours. Approximately 30 percent of this technological potential is slumbering in the metalworking industry and in the automotive sector.

Further information on the Phi Factory is available at the EnEff: Industrie web portal. (only in german)



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Consortium leader, production flexibility of production facilities and processes
TU Darmstadt, PTW


Film about the Eta Factory

EnEffCoIm software
In the EnEffCo project, the software developers Ökotec created a new program for holistic energy efficiency controlling, which can lower the consumption of production facilities and supply systems. Researchers from the field of energy and production technology developed and tested the system in cooperation with automotive manufacturers. During the project's life span alone, 15 GWh per year were saved. Based on this software platform, the modules for forecasting, optimisation and control of the plant systems as required for the Phi Factory project can now be developed.