A giant steel tower in Berlin, Germany will serve the same purpose as a coffee thermos this coming winter, AP News reports.
Located on an industrial site near the banks of the Spree River in Berlin, the tower will heat homes in a manner similar to a thermos flasks. It is approx. 150 feet (45 meters) tall and holds 14.8 million gallons (56 million liters) of hot water.
The new facility was put into operation on Thursday 30 June this week at the Vattenfall Reuter power plant. When completed at the end of this year, it will be the largest heat storage facility in Europe. It is worth noting that a bigger version is already planned for construction in the Netherlands.
Berlin’s new thermos tower will insulate water for up to 13 hours
According to the tower’s developer, utility company Vattenfall, it will heat homes in Berlin this winter even if Russia cuts-off gas supplies due to Western sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine.
“It’s a giant 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.”
“Sometimes there is too much electricity on the grid that you cannot use any-more and tha you have to turn-off the wind turbines,” she said. “We can get this electricity where we stand.”
The cost of this facility is 50 million euros ($52 million) to the taxpayer and has a heat capacity of 200 MW. The tank can hold insulated water for up to 13 hours and can meet most of Berlin’s hot water needs in summer. However, in winter it will meet around 10% of Berlin’s hot water demand.
New Berlin tower reduces Germany’s import & fossil fuel dependency
The Berlin tower would have the dual benefit of reducing dependence on Russian gas supplies and also reducing the emissions used to heat water when needed. The facility holds water brought to close boiling-temperature by electricity from German solar & wind power plants. When renewable energy exceeds demand, it can be used to heat the tower.
“Due to its geographical location, the Berlin region is even more dependent on Russian fossil fuels than other German regions,” Bettina Jarasch, Belin’s top climate official, told AP News in an interview. “That’s why we’re really in a hurry here. The war in Ukraine and the energy crisis taught us that we have to be faster. First, to be climate neutral, and second, become independent (in terms of energy imports).”
District heating systems fueled by coal & gas typically burn just enough fossil fuels to meet their goals, contributing to carbon-emissions causing climate change. Other companies are working on smaller renewable energy storage technologies using phase-change materials, but a new heat tower in Berlin & the Netherlands’ own version in development could help reduce emissions on a large scale.