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News – What`s happening in energy research

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Bright prospects for tomorrow’s electricity system
© EON Energie
Flagship projects in the Energy Storage initiative
12.07.2012

Storing surplus electricity and using it flexibly

It is intended that renewables shall supply around 80 per cent of the electricity requirement by 2050. The German federal government’s joint “Energy Storage” funding initiative is therefore supporting technological breakthroughs that lower costs and contribute to rapid market introductions. The three federal ministries for Economics, the Environment and Research have now given the start signal for 60 research projects in the energy storage sector. The programmes focus on two main areas: wind and hydrogen as well as batteries.

The first “Combined Wind-Hydrogen” flagship programme bundles together projects that are researching the generation of hydrogen or methane from surplus wind energy. The main focus is on optimising the electrolysis to achieve greater efficiency when splitting water to form storable hydrogen and oxygen.

“Combined Wind-Hydrogen” flagship programme – Examples

  • The joint “ekolyser” project is utilising the expertise from research institutions (including the Research Centre Jülich) and industry to develop improved components for flexible polymer electrolyte membrane electrolysers (PEM electrolysers): the service life of membranes shall be improved, metallic bipolar plates for the demanding operation in electrolysers developed, and the charging with expensive catalysts reduced.
  • The “LastElSys” project is pursuing another approach. In this project the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) is further developing PEM electrolysers and adapting them to the changing loads that occur when using electricity from fluctuating renewable energy sources. The aim is to achieve membrane electrolysis units resistant to load changes for use in PEM electrolysis systems. Various combinations of membranes and catalysts can then be researched and tested in a newly developed system.
  • A project at the Technische Universität Berlin is working on developing new, highly active and cost effective electrolysis catalysts for both part-reactions in hydrogen electrolysis. The project will help in the medium to long term to improve the cost effectiveness of storing energy in the form of hydrogen.

“Batteries in Distribution Networks” flagship programme

The aim of the second focus area, “Batteries in Distribution Networks”, is to combine battery storage systems with decentralised renewable energy plants, in particular photovoltaic systems: to relieve the electricity grid, it is intended that electricity – particularly from solar power systems – shall be used or stored on site or fed into the grid as required. In addition, batteries directly in the distribution network can also help improve the network operation, which could reduce the cost of expanding the network.

Example projects:

  • In the “Smart Region Pellworm” project in the North Sea, the proven infrastructure for renewable energy technology is being used to develop stable, cost-efficient and market-oriented electricity supplies based on renewable energies and using a hybrid storage system.
  • In a joint project at Clausthal University of Technology, researchers are investigating new types of bipolar plates and sealing materials for redox flow batteries. By optimising the manufacturing processes, an important contribution can be made to increasing the efficiency of the components for redox flow batteries and their cost-effective production.
  • In future, batteries will have to be elaborately linked and partially scaled up to form larger units. Since both represent new challenges, the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology is researching and improving the components in vanadium redox flow batteries and is developing new test rigs for testing these materials as part of a joint project.


In addition to the “Combined Wind-Hydrogen” and “Batteries in Distribution Networks” flagship projects, the ministries are also funding research projects on, for example, energy system analysis and thermal storage systems. This includes basic research at Ruhr University Bochum, the University of Münster, the Leibniz Institute for New Materials in Saarbrücken, Ulm University and the Centre for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research (ZSW) in Ulm. In order to secure long-term expertise for transforming the energy system, young researchers at five German universities are working in an interdisciplinary manner on the various storage technologies.

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