The annual excursion is a long-standing tradition of PPRE which every batch looks forward to. As customary, planning for the excursion scheduled in July 2020 was started by the 2019-21 batch in their first winter semester. However, the travel restrictions and safety regulations imposed due to COVID-19 made it difficult for the excursion to take place as planned and therefore it was postponed to March 2021. As 2021 arrived, it was clear that it would be challenging for the excursion to take place in March or later in the year, not only for the 2019-21 batch but also for the newer 2020-22 batch. Taking all these conditions into consideration, an alternative plan was put into action by the PPRE team led by Hans Holtorf and Sandra Schwerz, which was to organise the first-ever united virtual excursion for the batches of 2019-21 and 2020-22.
From March 22nd to 26th 2021, representatives of CorPower Ocean, JUWI, Mainzer Stadtwerke and ZSW, four companies that carry out research, technological development and projects in the renewable energy sector, presented a summary of their main activities, projects carried out, motivations, as well as upcoming challenges. They also answered questions from the students related to the presentation and about internship opportunities and future job prospects. A brief description of the companies and the topics presented by them are given below:
CorPower Ocean is a leading wave energy technology developer utilizing forty years of ocean energy research to bring a new class of high efficiency Wave Energy Converters (WEC) to market, enabling robust and cost-effective harvesting of electricity from ocean waves. Their headquarters are located in Stockholm, Sweden. The main topics of discussion in the presentation included electricity production potential by waves, wave energy and motion, challenges in wave energy, CorPower Ocean’s point absorber, how WEC survives in the ocean, installation and operation of the WEC and WEC supply chain.
JUWI is one of the world’s leading companies in the area of renewable energy with a strong regional presence and offers project development and EPC services as well as products and solutions for the energy turnaround with a vision of achieving 100% renewables with projects in solar and wind. It is located in Wörrstadt, Germany. Apart from an overview of the company and its locations, the presentation by JUWI also covered the market position in wind energy, repowering of the wind turbines, solar energy, energy transition and its challenges, regional value creation and investment opportunities and the renewable energy market.
Mainzer Stadtwerke is a public company with 100% municipal ownership in the city of Mainz, Germany. It ensures energy production in modern power plants, for a reliable supply of electricity, gas, drinking water, district heating in the region and an attractive range of buses and trams in the city. The presentation mainly focused on their current innovations and projects, power to gas plant operation, factors influencing the economic efficiency of power-to-gas plants, optimization of the plant operation, evaluation of technology, logistics, hydrogen pipeline and infrastructure.
ZSW was established as a non-profit foundation under the civil code with the goal of industry-oriented research and technology transfer in the field of renewable energies and is located in the State of Baden-Württemberg, Germany. The main topics of their presentation included ZSW CIGS Thin-Film Solar Technology, Power to X projects, Electrolysis,In-House Development, Real lab (H2-Wyhlen) and work experience at the company by one of their employees.
Each company presentation had its own unique set of takeaways and have been summarised in the following key points:
- The total wave potential is over 500 GW (2300 TWh) which is equivalent to the 10% of the global energy need. - CorPower Ocean AB
- Wave technology is still in the early stages: over 1000 patents for wave energy converters have been published but very few commercialized in real life. - CorPower Ocean AB
- Adaptation is the key for survival. Constant changes can drive a company out of the market. - JUWI
- Renewable energy is a promising field to invest in because it addresses future energy demand challenges. - JUWI
- Hydrogen busses and municipal vehicles could be used as an initial proof of concept for wider usage. - Mainzer Stadtwerke
- Carbon credit prices play a vital role in leading power to gas plants to the commercial stage. - Mainzer Stadtwerke
- By partnering with companies on new project developments, an R&D institution can launch commercial products that are attractive to consumers and then generate significant revenues. - ZSW
- Communication is the key between research institutions, industries and universities. - ZSW
Apart from the key takeaways specific to the companies, the overall general lessons learned were that:
- Networking is very important to take advantage of the various opportunities in many different sectors.
- German language and programming skills are crucial to finding an internship or master thesis.
- Renewable energy technology is quickly changing, and one needs to be able to adapt.
The Virtual Excursion 2021 was held successfully with the participation of 21 students from the PPRE batch 2019-21 and 22 students from the PPRE batch 2020-22. The event was a global platform where the students were representing several countries around the world such as Colombia, India, Germany, Sri Lanka, USA, Egypt, Panama, Bangladesh, Ecuador, Uganda, Yemen, Korea, Jordan, Pakistan, Mexico, Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Eritrea, Cameroon, Bolivia and Iran. The students were from diverse engineering backgrounds including Electrical, Electronics, Mechanical, Chemical, Aerospace, Petroleum, Biosystems, Energy, Industrial, Environmental as well as Marine. It was a tremendous experience with this dynamic involvement which directed to a successful outcome. A few direct quotes were taken from the PPRE excursion organising team and students regarding the virtual excursion:
Hans Holtorf (PPRE team): “Thanks to all the PPREs (batch 19/21 and batch 20/22), the company presenters and special thanks to my colleague Sandra for making this virtual excursion such an unpredicted success. I was definitely surprised that it went so well. You were all GORGEOUS. However, I do hope we will have excursions in the good old fashion in face-to-face mode in future.”
Sandra Schwerz (PPRE team): "I am more than happy that our virtual excursion was a success and that everyone was able to get insights into companies and their projects as well as research focus. However, I am keeping my fingers crossed that we will soon be able to offer a non-digital excursion for the future PPRE batches. Thank you to all who were a part of this virtual excursion!"
Cody Hancock (PPRE 2020-22): “Thank you to everyone for coming up with this idea and making the best out of an otherwise disheartening time. I think listening to these companies, each of which was exploring new and creative technologies in the field, brought a new-found sense of hope and purpose to my studies and beyond. I especially enjoyed the passion each of the presenters had about their respective work and fields. The virtual excursion was truly inspiring!”
Sarah Bredemeier: “I think I will speak for all of us when I say a big THANK YOU and a huge compliment to Sandra for hosting and managing each meeting in the most professional and accomplished way! I think not only us students but also the invited guests felt most at ease thanks to your politeness and competent guidance through every session!”