By FRANK JORDANS – Associated Press
BERLIN (AP) – The rust-colored tower rising from an industrial site near the banks of the River Spree in Berlin looks nothing like the sleek bottles the Germans use for coffee, but its purpose is similar: to supply some warmth throughout the day, especially when it’s cold outside.
With a height of 45 meters (almost 150 feet) and the capacity to hold up to 56 million liters (14.8 million gallons) of hot water, utility company Vattenfall says the tower will help heat homes Berlin this winter even if the Russian gas reserves dry up.
“It’s a huge thermos that helps us store heat when we don’t need it,” said Tanja Wielgoss, who runs the Swedish company’s heating unit in Germany. “And then we can release it when we need to use it.”
Although district heating systems powered by coal, gas or waste have been around for over a century, most are not designed to store significant amounts of heat.
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By contrast, the new facility unveiled at Reuter’s Vattenfall power station on Thursday will hold water brought to near-boiling temperature with excess electricity from solar and wind power plants across Germany.
“Sometimes you have an abundance of electricity in the grids that you can’t use anymore, and then you have to turn off the wind turbines,” Wielgoss said. “Where we are, we can absorb that electricity.”
The 50 million euro ($52 million) facility will have a thermal capacity of 200 megawatts – enough to meet much of Berlin’s hot water needs during the summer and about 10% of what it needs. need in winter. The large insulated tank can keep water hot for up to 1 p.m., helping to bridge short periods when there’s little wind or sun.
It will also be able to use other heat sources, such as that extracted from wastewater, Wielgoss said. While this will be Europe’s largest heat storage facility when completed at the end of this year, an even larger facility is already planned in the Netherlands.
Bettina Jarasch, Berlin’s top climate official, said the sooner these heat storage systems are built, the better.
“Due to its geographical location, the Berlin region is even more dependent on Russian fossil fuels than other parts of Germany,” she told The Associated Press. “That’s why we’re really in a rush here.”
“The war in Ukraine and the energy crisis teach us that we have to be faster,” Jarasch said.
“First to become climate neutral,” she said. “And then, to become independent.”
Wielgoss, meanwhile, is confident that Vattenfall customers won’t be cold this winter, despite the looming shortage of gas from Russia.
“Consumers in Germany are very well protected,” she said. “So they certainly won’t suffer from a shortage. But of course, we implore everyone to really start saving energy.
“Every kilowatt hour we save is good for the country,” she added.
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