by Juan Camilo Gomez Trillos, Saba Al-Sader, Dipta Majumder
On the 24 July, 2017, PPRE students of 2016/18 batch started their final excursion. The excursion was scheduled for one-week duration in the PPRE program at the end of the summer semester with visits to several organizations and places related to renewable energy. The journey began from Oldenburg towards cities and towns in the north of Germany like Brilon, Oberhausen, Bonn, Wernigerode, finishing with ecovillage Sieben Linden. The students paid visit to renowned organizations and companies like the United Nation, GIZ, Fraunhofer UMSICHT and Hoppecke.
Day 1: Oldenburg to Bonn
The first destination in the excursion was the well-known western German city of Bonn. The whole group went to see the Drachenburg castle, a late 19th century villa and enjoyed the fabulous natural views. The students went to see more of the city later before starting the official visits next morning.
Day 2: UN and GIZ
The students kick-off started the day with visit to the United Nations (UN). During the visit, the students attended a series of presentations from UN personnel on the implementation of the Paris Agreement and the relationship between Gender and Climate change. The presentation session ended with a video about the history of UN in the city of Bonn, the reasons why the UN was in Bonn after the unification of Germany. The visit was followed by a small guided tour through the Langer Eugen Building in the UN office area. The students then had lunch on the top floor of the Langer Eugen Building with the backdrop of Beautiful Bonn.
The group then rushed to the GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit), or ‘German Corporation for International Cooperation’ office. The students started the session with an introductory presentation on the PPRE program. Later, GIZ personnel presented on the structure of their organization and focused on several programs which are relevant to the renewable energy sector in developing countries i.e. EU Energy Initiative Partnership Dialogue Facility (EUEI PDF), Energizing development (EnDev) and SV Technology Cooperation (SV TechKoop). Towards the end of the session, the available opportunities were presented for students to have working positions, internships or master thesis. After finishing of the long official visit, the students explored the Bundeskunsthalle, the city center and finally had some rest in the youth hostel.
Day 3: Fraunhofer UMSICHT, Oberhausen
After a heavy breakfast on Day 3 morning, the students hopped on the bus to visit Fraunhofer UMSICHT in Oberhausen, a specialized institute in research related to environment, safety and energy. Representatives from Fraunhofer UMSICHT introduced the students to the research activities performed in the institute, followed by a short presentation of PPRE students about the program contents, practical experience during the summer lab and results of their internships. PPRE students also presented their scientific posters to share the results obtained during the summer laboratories in energy meteorology, solar home system, wind energy and cooking stoves while the PhD students of the institute also shared their research topics with the students. After a lot of networking over a delicious lunch, the personnel of the institute showed the available facilities to the students. The first stop in the visit was a plant to do pyrolysis of biomass, obtaining liquid fuels from solid biomass. Up next was a plant to perform environmental tanning of leather using supercritical fluids. The scaling of the process was also showed, going from a scale of liters to a chamber of several meters of diameter. The group then moved forward to a plant that uses a cryogenic process to separate the components of tires and a plant of biopolymers. The final stop of the visit was a research lab where redox flow batteries are being studied as an upcoming electrochemical energy storage technology. After finishing the visit, the students carried the journey forward towards Brilon, in the region called Sauerland. Having reached in Brilon, the students visited the old city center and strolled through the calm streets of the town.
Day 4: Hoppecke, Brilon
The next on the list was to visit the well renowned battery manufacturer Hoppecke (Hoppecke Batterien GmbH & Co. KG). The company’s representative gave the students an introduction about the different products and services that the company provides. After wearing the proper personal protective equipment, the students made a short visit to the assembly plant of this battery manufacturer. As a part of the visit, the technical characteristics of a big energy storage combining lead-acid batteries and lithium-ion batteries were also presented by Hoppecke. The students then had an awesome lunch in the canteen, thanks to Hoppecke. At the end of the visit, prototypes of the different product lines were demonstrated. The students enthusiastically asked about the financial aspects of different technologies, advantages and disadvantages of each product and recycling processes. The students then headed back to the youth hostel. Later that night, the students celebrated the birthday of one of the students (Jorge from Columbia) singing and sharing a few experiences. Unfortunately, despite trying so hard, the students could not set the woods on fire!!
Day 5: Samson Silver Mine
Next morning, the students went to the Samson Silver mine, an important example of technological development and use of hydropower. Samson Silver mine is located in St. Andreasberg, a town in the low mountain range "Harz". The visit started in the museum in the upper part of the mine, showing the then technology, developed to improve the mining activities in this region, including lifter, cables and several tools. After a short explanation, the students visited the sub surface installations, where big installations like water mills were used to provide mechanical power to perform several tasks in the mine. Currently the mine is used as hydropower station, taking advantage of the head and the flow of water that formerly was used in the mine. Next, the students went to the reservoir from which the water goes to the mine in a very green area. The next stop after visiting the mine was Wernigerode, a small town in the eastern part of the Harz region. After arriving to the youth hostel, most of the members of the group visited the old town and the Castle in a nearby hill, and prepared themselves for the hiking the next day.
Students outside the museum of Samson Silver mine (Photo credits: Juan Camilo Gomez Trillos)
Day 6: Hiking and Meteorology, Brocken
Two hiking routes were previously suggested by the PPRE members, with different difficulty level. The aim in both cases was the summit of Brocken - the highest point of "Harz"! After walking through the forest surrounding the summit, the two teams gathered on top of the Brocken and visited the meteorological station of the German Weather Service. The visit included a guided tour to see the different instruments on top of the building and a collection of ceramic frogs in the building. With the tired legs after hiking, the students took a ride in a steam train to go back to Wernigerode, evocating the journeys of the past with this kind of train.
Day 7: Sieben Linden and back to Oldenburg
The last destination of the excursion was the ecovillage Sieben Linden. The students observed the approach of the inhabitants to have a more sustainable style of living, growing their own food in a sustainable way, reusing and treating their wastewater and solid waste and reducing energy consumption as much as possible. The houses of the village are also made with certain technologies to diminish their environmental impact. Besides the sustainability, special rules are also followed by the community, such as the absence of cell phones in the place. After this visit, the bus headed back to Oldenburg, ending the excursion after a week of enriching experiences.
The students of PPRE 16-18 batch would like to thank the supervisors of the final excursion Dr. Robin Knecht and Dr. Christiane Stroth for their endless support. A special thanks to Marianne Hamm, former PPRE staff, who joined the students in the excursion.