What prospects does the electrode boiler offer for the energy transition?
An electrode boiler can serve various purposes. On the one hand, it removes excess energy from the power grid when – for example in bright sunshine and strong winds – more energy is generated from renewable sources than is consumed. This ensures the stability of the electricity grid. On the other hand, an electrode boiler can step in if some heat, but not enough to justify the start-up of a power plant, is needed. Another aspect that is likely to gain in importance in the future is cogeneration: What happens if a power plant has to supply heat but no electricity is needed? That is not a problem as long as electricity prices cover costs. If electricity prices are low or even negative, it is worth using an electrode boiler to convert the unintentionally produced electricity into additional usable heat.
What is so special about an electrode boiler?
At our Völklingen-Fenne site, we try out innovative applications for the electrode boiler and remote-controlled, grid-driven operation. The load change rate and control capability are particularly noteworthy – our electrode boiler reaches its maximum output within 30 seconds of being called up by the network operator and can control that output precisely in a way that serves the network. Irrespective of our project in Fenne, an electrode boiler can also be used if a heat generator is needed at short notice – for example to secure heating supply. An electrode boiler works locally, almost without any emissions. The approval procedure is therefore quite simple and the installation period comparatively short. It took us less than a year to complete our project. That was a bit of a sporting challenge, but it was also a lot of fun.
What other forward-looking topics are you dealing with at STEAG?
Even though most people don’t associate STEAG with it, network topics are a major focus of my work. We have been working for transmission and distribution system operators for many years and contribute our electrical engineering expertise to complex engineering projects, starting with the extra high voltage grid and ranging up to the secure supply of data centers. I am convinced that the challenges in the grid sector will continue to rise as a result of increasing energy generation from renewable sources, the decline in conventional power plants and the advance of electromobility. In this context, battery systems, for example, are a field in which our expertise will be increasingly in demand. And not only in Germany, but also internationally. There, for example, we have already been working in the Middle East and Indonesia.