Berlin prepares a “giant thermos” to help warm the house this winter

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Berlin (AP) — A rusty tower towering from an industrial site near the banks of the Spree River in Berlin does not look like the smooth flasks Germans use for coffee, but for a similar purpose. It’s cold outside.

Vattenfall, a utility company that holds up to 56 million liters (14.8 million gallons) of hot water at a height of 45 meters, says the tower will help warm Berlin’s home this winter. Even if Russia’s gas supply is exhausted..

“This is a huge thermos that helps store heat when it’s not needed,” said Tanja Wielgoss, head of the Swedish-based German heat unit. “And you can release it when you need to use it.”

Coal, gas, or waste-fueled district heating systems have been around for over a century, but most are not designed to store large amounts of heat. Instead, they burn as much fossil fuels as they need, contributing to the emission of greenhouse gases that are driving global warming.

In contrast, the new facility, unveiled at the Reuters power plant in Vattenfall on Thursday, uses electricity from solar and wind power plants across Germany to hold water at near boiling temperatures. increase. While renewable energy exceeds demand, the facility effectively functions as a huge battery, but instead of storing electricity, it stores heat.

“If the grid has a lot of power and is no longer available, we need to turn off the wind turbines,” says Wielgoss. “You can take in this electricity wherever we are standing.”

The 50 million euro ($ 52 million) facility has a heat capacity of 200 megawatts. This is enough to meet much of Berlin’s hot water demand during the summer and about 10% of what is needed in the winter. The vast insulation tank can keep the water hot for up to 13 hours, helping to bridge short periods of time with little wind or sun.

Other heat sources can also be used, such as those extracted from wastewater, Wielgoss said. Completed at the end of this year, it will be Europe’s largest heat storage facility, but a larger heat storage facility is already planned in the Netherlands.

Betina Jerash, Berlin’s chief climate official, said the sooner the construction of such a heat storage system was, the better.

“Because of its geographical location, the Berlin region is more dependent on Russian fossil fuels than the rest of Germany, which is why we are really in a hurry here,” she said. Told to.

“The war and energy crisis in Ukraine tells us that we need to be faster,” Jerash said.

“First of all, being climate-neutral, and secondly, being independent (from energy imports),” she said.

The figures released Thursday by the German Utility Association BDEW show that efforts to reduce natural gas usage have been effective.

Gas consumption fell 14.3% in the first five months of the year compared to the same period in 2021.

Part of the decline was due to warm weather, but industry groups have attributed to worsening economic conditions, energy savings and a complaint from the German government to save personal effort, even in light of rising temperatures. Said there was a measurable drop.

Wielgoss said Vattenfall’s customers are confident that it won’t be cold this winter, despite the imminent pressure on gas from Russia as Moscow retaliates against Western sanctions. .. Reduce gas flowing through critical pipelines..

“German consumers are very well protected,” she said. “So they certainly don’t suffer from shortages, but of course we beg everyone to really start saving energy.”

“One kilowatt hour we save is good for the country,” she added.

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