Climate change has brought along a variety of changes in the global energy landscape. Population growth and development are resulting in a steady increase in energy needs with consumption more than doubling since 1980. The German energy transition “Energiewende”, in which renewable energy sources play a central role, requires disruptive transformations of the energy grid. With the industry sector remaining one of the most significant energy consumers in Germany, it is inevitable to bring big industrial changes in order to reach climate goals set in the Paris Agreement and German climate policy through energy efficiency and waste heat reduction measures. Moving towards a greener energy mix with large shares of wind and solar power means more decentralized and volatile energy systems. This poses challenges to the current energy infrastructure and urgently calls for an increase in energy flexibility in addition to energy efficiency.
The ETA Factory (Energy Technologies and Applications in Production) is one of six research groups under the Institute of Production Management, Technology and Machine Tools at TU Darmstadt. With over 20 interdisciplinary research associates, the ETA Factory is involved in research projects striving towards energy and resource efficiency as well as energy flexibility in production. For a practical edge, the ETA Factory participates in transferring know-how and technologies into the industry through workshops, factory tours and university courses. In regards to energy efficiency, ETA sets itself apart from traditional approaches by aiming towards factory optimization in a more holistic sense. This incorporates all the factory sub-systems such as production machines, process chains, infrastructure and the factory building as opposed to an isolated optimization of each sub-system. Efforts towards energy flexibility in cooperation with other research institutions and industrial partners have so far brought along successes in large-scale energy flexibilization (e.g. in aluminium electrolysis) in addition to insights into further energy flexibility potentials in other energy intensive industries.