TRIMET’s “virtual battery” will be part of KlimaExpo.NRW

Jan 13, 2017 | Since its invention in 1886, the aluminum production process has been based on a constant supply of energy. With the “virtual battery,” TRIMET Aluminium SE has overcome this dogma for the first time, making the energy-intensive electrolysis process more flexible. This enables a huge power store to be created, facilitating the integration of electricity into the power grid generated sporadically from renewable energy sources. For this exemplary commitment to climate protection, Viktor Haase, Head of Division, Cross-sectoral Environmental Matters and Sustainable Development in the Ministry for Climate Protection, Environment, Agriculture, Conservation, and Consumer Protection of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia (MKULNV), officially included the project in KlimaExpo.NRW today on behalf of NRW Minister for Climate Protection Johannes Remmel.

The aluminum production process requires a good deal of energy. This great demand provides an opportunity for the energy turnaround. TRIMET has shown this with its “virtual battery” project. The aluminum producer envisions the flexible use of production line electrolysis furnaces at its Essen plant as an energy store. The output can be varied in a range of plus or minus 25 percent – resulting in a virtual storage capacity of approximately 1,120 megawatt hours, which is comparable to that of a medium-sized pumped-storage power plant. This power store facilitates the feed-in of sporadically produced renewable energy, including wind and solar energy, into the German power grid by balancing out grid fluctuations.

Virtual battery becomes the 123rd of 1,000 “steps into the future”

For this exemplary commitment to climate protection, Viktor Haase, Head of Division, Cross-sectoral Environmental Matters and Sustainable Development at MKULNV, acting on behalf of NRW Minister for Climate Protection Johannes Remmel, included the project in KlimaExpo.NRW today. To mark the occasion, Viktor Haase, together with KlimaExpo.NRW Executive Director Wolfgang Jung, handed over a certificate of inclusion in the exhibition to Dr. Martin Iffert, CEO of TRIMET Aluminium SE.

Johannes Remmel, NRW Minister for Climate Protection, on the project: “With this exemplary project, TRIMET shows that the energy-intensive industry is an important partner for the energy transition. Through targeted load management, it makes a major contribution to a secure energy supply under fluctuating feed-in, and also to the successful implementation of the energy turnaround.”

To symbolically acknowledge this 123rd of “1,000 steps into the future,” which KlimaExpo.NRW will be showcasing until 2022, Wolfgang Jung collected the shoe prints of Dr. Martin Iffert: “TRIMET has been particularly impressive in showing how industrial energy customers can rethink their established processes and contribute to grid stability, thus becoming the driving force behind the energy turnaround,” explained Wolfgang Jung.

In accepting the certificate, Dr. Martin Iffert expressed his gratitude: “For years, we have been committed to energy- and resource-efficient aluminum production and processing. The virtual battery is a revolutionary milestone underlining the fact that the primary industry can and will make an important contribution to the success of the energy revolution. We are honored to receive the award and see it as recognition for the creativity and hard work of all those employees and project partners involved.”

Karola Geiß-Netthöfel, Regional Director of KlimaExpo.NRW’s regional partner Ruhr Regional Association (RVR), offered congratulatory remarks for the company’s inclusion in the exhibition: “The Ruhr metropolitan region was and remains one of the most important industrial regions in Germany. Investments in sustainable and efficient technologies, such as TRIMET’s ‘virtual battery,’ are not only climate-friendly, but also signal the future viability of the industrial location on the Ruhr and the Emscher.”

Flexible aluminum production could increase pumped storage capacity in Germany by a third

To ensure the flexible control of its electrolysis furnaces, TRIMET has developed a controllable heat exchanger together with the University of Wuppertal, which continuously maintains the energy balance in the furnace despite an erratic energy supply. A major challenge is keeping production constant despite a flexible supply of energy, removing any interruptions in the foundry process and ensuring that delivery obligations can be met. As part of the process, each aluminum electrolysis cell contains ten tons of liquid aluminum. Depending on the increase or decrease in production, this content will be adjusted so that production fluctuations do not interfere with the continuous processing of the material.

The new technique has great potential. If fully implemented, the four aluminum smelters in Germany – three of which are located in North Rhine-Westphalia, with two of these smelters as well as a smelter in Hamburg being operated by TRIMET – could increase the country’s current pumped storage capacity of 40 gigawatt hours by a third. The family-run business is investing some 36 million euros for ongoing tests on an industrial scale.

TRIMET as project partner and sponsor of the European Green Capital – Essen 2017

Beyond the “virtual battery” project, TRIMET is committed to climate and environmental protection in the city of Essen. The company is also an active sponsor of the European Green Capital – Essen 2017, supporting, among other things, a specialist conference. Using the example of modern storage technologies, this event will explore the question of how the industrial sector can contribute to the success of the energy turnaround.

About KlimaExpo.NRW:

KlimaExpo.NRW is an interdisciplinary initiative of the NRW state government. It launched KlimaExpo.NRW in order to make the energy turnaround, climate protection, and required adjustments to the effects of climate change driving forces for sustainable development in the economy and society. The goal of the state organization is to present successful projects in innovative formats to a broad public up to the international level while initiating added commitment to climate protection. KlimaExpo.NRW presents the technological and economic potential of North Rhine-Westphalia in this field. It is both an exhibition and a think tank for North Rhine-Westphalia, and will not only take place in one place and on one day, but across the state until 2022. The interim presentation of KlimaExpo.NRW will take place throughout NRW in 2017; at the same time, the state initiative is working closely with klimametropole RUHR 2022 and European Green Capital Essen 2017.

KlimaExpo.NRW has received funding for the implementation of the interim presentation from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).