Infrastructure for testing new district heating and cooling systems
Low-temperature grids capable of combining heat sources of various initial temperatures (from 30 °C) are the latest innovation in the area of district heating and cooling systems. The Energy Exchange Lab conducts tests on these innovative systems as well as on traditional systems under real-life conditions.
The lab recreates on a small scale the various stages involved during the operation of district heating and cooling systems, from heat generation and distribution to consumption by end customers. This enables it to investigate the best network management solutions as well as the supply of heat from several sources. The flexible lab infrastructure allows various configurations as well as hardware and control software to be tested.
The district heating system and a solar thermal installation are located outside in the grounds of the lab, while the inside of the lab is divided into two areas housing an energy generation system and heat transfer stations.
The energy generation system
The energy generation system is connected to the solar thermal installation and comprises a gas boiler, an Organic Rankine Cycle unit (ORC unit) and an absorption chiller. This system can be used to simulate and test a combined cooling, heat and power plant (trigeneration) connected to the grid, enabling researchers in the lab to investigate and optimise the use of a non-programmable source of thermal and electrical energy.
Heat transfer stations
Several electric heat pumps are used to emulate consumers feeding heat in or taking it from the low-temperature grid. This system investigates interfaces via which end users can draw energy for heating and preparing hot water. When the heat pump is operated in reverse, these interfaces can also be employed to feed energy back into the grid.
Tests on control systems and plants
Besides testing control systems, the lab can be used to examine the interaction between and mode of operation of various control modules, in terms of both the individual units involved in the cycle and the entire system. The lab infrastructure can also be used to test innovative technologies such as mini ORCs, absorption pumps which work with liquid heat transfer media of up to 250 °C in temperature and transfer stations within the district heating network.
Turning knowledge into commercial success
From heating and cooling units powered by renewable energy, to hybrid solutions and control strategies for complex systems, the researchers working at Eurac Research are happy to share with interested businesses the knowledge they gain in these fields from international research networks. This knowledge and the lab's great flexibility enable its researchers to provide an excellent level of support to companies looking to develop innovative products.
- For infrastructural work: Energytech Ingenieure GmbH, ATZWANGER AG, Enisyst GmbH, Soltigua Srl.
- Long-term research partners: Alperia AG, Stadtwerke Brixen AG
For more information, please contact Roberto Fedrizzi.