Topic area 5: Renewable energies
Tapping potential uses of renewable energies for transport and transport infrastructure to a greater extent
The Federal Government intends to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Germany by 65 percent until 2030 and by at least by 88 percent until 2040 in comparison to 1990. In this respect, the transport sector can make a substantial contribution to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. To achieve this, the current transport system has to be substituted by transport modes with lower emissions. For this purpose, cross-modal synergies and thereby the interconnection of the transport modes road, rail and waterway are essential. Beside the passenger and freight transport, the transport infrastructure itself can contribute to the reduction of emissions in the transport sector, by becoming more energy-efficient, by increasingly using renewable energies, and possibly by storing renewable energies locally.
By following a cross-modal approach, the topic area ‘Renewable energies’ contributes to tap potential use of renewable energies in the fields of transport and transport infrastructure and helps to identify potentials for reducing energy consumption. As a result of this, research contributes to decrease the emissions of the transport infrastructure.
Recognizing potentials and obstacles
As a first step, and in due consideration of the above mentioned goals, the experts of the topic area ‘Renewable energies’ conduct an analysis of the current state of energy consumption required for operating the transport infrastructure. This includes energy supply of infrastructure buildings and the operation of the service vehicle fleet. Within the previous research phase of the BMDV Network of Experts (2016-2019) the waterway was also included, whereas the current focus lies on investigating the sectors road and rail. Subsequently, the researchers will identify possible potentials for reducing energy consumption, for instance by using energy-saving technologies. The further analysis and improvement of energy supply which is needed for buildings of the transport infrastructure also depends on the regional meteorological conditions. Thus, various relevant meteorological information is regularly included into the research.
Additionally, the scientists investigate how the transport infrastructure can be supplied with renewable energies. To determine the potential of electricity production on traffic areas as well as in catchment areas of electrical power lines, data on solar radiation and wind from multi-year re-analyses is required. An example of the conducted research within the previous research phase is the buffering of the variable energy production in the damming of shipping canals. Beside providing the technical prerequisites, the researchers develop proposals for solutions to remove organizational and legal obstacles concerning the mutual exchange of renewable energies between the transport modes and public as well as private facilities.
Furthermore, the experts within the topic area focus on new systems, such as self-sustaining (railway) bridges or road surfaces and noise barriers equipped with integrated photovoltaics. Other potential renewable sources of energy include biogenic energy, small wind turbines and geothermal energy. To operate or to maintain the transport infrastructure, also the deployment of the service vehicle fleet is necessary. The production of renewable energies by means of photovoltaics and wind power especially depends on the meteorological conditions. The required meteorological data is provided by the respective researchers in the spatio-temporal resolution needed. The researchers thereby also consider variability of weather and different future projections regarding climate change.
Additionally, the experts research the conversion of the respective vehicles to electric (drive) vehicles as well as hydrogen fuel cells or biogas as energy sources. The contribution which all transport modes can make to reduce greenhouse gas emissions differ due to their specific characteristic. Waterways can additionally contribute to a sustainable energy supply by buffering electrical excess energy in the form of potential energy. For this reason, synergetic and cross-modal research approaches are crucial. The experts of the topic area ‘Renewable energies’ aim to identify existing challenges for an enforced use of renewable energies regarding transport and transport infrastructure. They also intend to offer action strategies, for instance by making suggestions for creating necessary incentives or for changing legal requirements.
In cooperation with the DWD and the BfG, the BASt and the DZFS/EBA jointly analyzed the application potential of renewable energies for transport and transport infrastructure throughout Germany. The knowledge gained by applying this approach is the basis for further regional and local research. The most important findings include the following ones:
- New, highly resolved climatological datasets are essential for energy-related practical applications.
- The transport infrastructure reveals a high potential for the use of photovoltaics.
- Photovoltaic systems can usefully supplement the energy supply of the transport infrastructure and thereby contribute to the reduction of operational costs.
- A cross-modal perspective helps to use synergies and to exploit the application potential of renewable energies for transport and transport infrastructure more efficiently.