Next generation energy technology
Future climate policy will act as a significant driving force for the energy technology market. Climate change mitigation will require a transition to a low-emission energy system. On the one hand, this will result in costs for the whole economy, but on the other hand, it will create an enormous market for renewable energy technologies and energy-saving solutions. VTT supports planning and decision-making for example by producing scenarios for the effects of limiting emissions, as well as by developing new energy technology, such as new solutions improving the realiability of wind power plants.
In a study co-ordinated by VTT, scenario assessments were used to estimate the demand for Finnish clean energy technologies both globally and in different geographical regions against a backdrop of stricter climate policy. In the scenario assessments in which global greenhouse gas emissions were aggressively limited, especially investments in wind power and bioenergy increased tenfold many times over by 2050 in all the scenario assessments. Investments in the use of CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage) were considerable after 2020. The use of nuclear energy will also increase significantly.
The share of wind power in energy production is increasing rapidly all over the world. In the future, wind power plants will be much larger than they are today, which poses new challenges for their product development. VTT is now applying its knowledge and expertise of vibration management of large machines, tribology, lubrication technology, new materials, condition monitoring systems and virtual modelling to wind power plant gears and power transmission.
VTT and Moventas are also developing virtual prototyping to support the design and development of gears and power transmission. In virtual prototyping product development and testing is performed on a computer screen with virtual models. This speeds up product development and reduces the need to manufacture real prototypes. VTT is also improving the reliability of the power transmission and gears of wind power plants by developing preventive maintenance. This makes it possible to take correctly timed maintenance actions and to significantly reduce the risk of serious damage and failures in electricity production.
VTT is also involved in a number of projects aimed at clarifying the prerequisites for broader use of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies. Different kinds of technical alternatives for the recovery of carbon dioxide at power plants and in the steel industry are being investigated in the VTT-led CCS Finland project.
VTT Research Scientist Sebastian Teir has been studying in his doctoral research work how carbon dioxide could be captured in industrial by-products such as steelmaking slags and mining spoil. Teir looked at processes in which pure carbonate products could be produced from rock and steelmaking slags, thereby converting the carbon dioxide into a harmless solid mineral. The methods developed in his work have proved successful in laboratory tests at capturing carbon dioxide in magnesium and calcium carbonate products. Although the direct energy consumption was found to be low and the end-product useful, the methods’ high consumption of acids and alkalis would have to be reduced significantly to make the process feasible on an industrial scale.
The EU has made a proposed directive that, if implemented, would require the introduction of CCS in all new power plants using fossil fuels. The EU aims to get as many as 12 full-scale CCS pilot plants operational by 2015 and to make the technology commercially profitable by 2020.
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