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Realising the Potential of Central Cooling with Cooling Networks

Efficient cooling in the face of additional cooling demand due to global warming. Lower investment costs and energy requirements compared to decentralised solutions

 

Central cooling units with ice storage make a cooling network independent of fluctuations in renewable energy sources

The importance of cooling networks will grow rapidly in the coming years and decades, driven by two main factors. Firstly, the demand for cooling for industrial, office, residential and other applications will increase significantly due to global warming. Secondly, with the commitment of European countries to achieve climate neutrality by 2045, there is a great need to reduce CO2 emissions. However, refrigeration is currently still a very energy-intensive sector with a poor carbon footprint. 

 

Efficiency benefits of centralised cooling

Cooling networks exploit the efficiency potential of centralised cooling. The cooling capacity and system performance provided centrally can often be less than the sum of the installed cooling applications, because not all applications demand the full capacity at the same time. In addition, the investment cost of a central cooling system is lower than that of a local system with the same capacity.

High level of state funding

Because of these efficiency benefits, the expansion of cooling networks e.g. in Germany is being heavily promoted with funds from the Federal Office of Economics and Export Control and various state programmes. Many local and regional energy suppliers have included central cooling in their range of services. As a result, more than 50 district heating and cooling networks have been built and commissioned in recent years. 

Urban cooling network with ice storage

Exploit the potential of central cooling with the ice storage system

Ice storage systems significantly improve the efficiency of central cooling units, have a positive impact on investment and operating costs, and expand the energy options for cooling. By incorporating ice storage systems, cold can be generated and supplied using wind or solar energy. If wind or solar energy is not available in sufficient quantities, ice storage is used, which has previously been charged with excess energy.

 

Operating and investment costs (CAPEX/OPEX)

However, there are additional features that make ice storage tanks the perfect extension for cooling networks.

 

Investment costs (CAPEX)

By using ice storage as a supply buffer, the capacity of the refrigeration system and the associated electrical supply (transformers, switchgear, cables, etc.) can be reduced.

 

The ice storage tank enables lower flow temperatures for the cooling supply. This reduces the investment costs in the cooling network. Lower flow temperatures allow for smaller pipe diameters, smaller pumps and smaller heat exchanger surfaces in the transfer stations.

Operating costs (OPEX)

Compared to decentralised solutions, a centralised cooling system has lower maintenance and service costs. These costs can be further reduced by using ice storage systems to provide a share of the refrigeration, thereby reducing the number of chillers required.

 

Cold generation can take place at night, when the outside temperature is lower and the chillers can run at higher capacity. This makes refrigeration less energy intensive and reduces CO2 emissions. The savings in operating costs are even more significant when favourable electricity tariffs can be used at night.

 

The ice storage system reduces peaks in electricity demand. This, together with a smaller number of chillers, reduces the connected load of the district cooling network. As the connected load is usually included in the basic electricity price, the electricity costs for refrigeration are also reduced.

Why the sp.ICE ice storage system is the right solution for district cooling

The importance of charging time

In addition to sufficient cooling capacity, the charging time of an ice storage tank is a crucial factor for the performance and efficiency of the whole district cooling system. The charging time is the time it takes an ice storage tank to produce and store cooling energy in the form of ice.

A short charging time contributes significantly to minimising the amount of energy lost in ice production and has a positive effect on the overall efficiency of the system. When discharging the cold, a fast discharge ensures sufficient cooling energy even during peak demand periods in the district cooling network. This is especially true for larger district cooling networks in densely populated urban areas where the demand for cooling can rise sharply. The network can be designed with a smaller number of chillers.

A long charging time, on the other hand, can lead to bottlenecks, jeopardise the continuous supply of cooling and also increase energy consumption.

The sp.ICE dynamics

The extremely short charging time of the sp.ICE, thanks to the patented capillary tube technology, ensures that cooling is available even during peak loads. The sp.ICE can be recharged in 6 hours, allowing it to store surplus energy from wind or solar power plants.

The scalability of our ice storage technology allows capacity planning to adapt to the size of the cooling network and the number of consumers. If an expansion of the district cooling network is planned, the ice storage capacity can be increased accordingly.

In this way, the sp.ICE helps to reduce the environmental footprint of the cooling supply, reduces CO2 emissions through the efficient use of renewable energy sources and helps to realise the potential of district cooling.

The central cooling plant at Europaplatz in Heidelberg saves 1,300 tonnes of CO2 per year. This is equivalent to the CO2 emissions of 900 cars. How is this possible? With sp.ICE ice storage systems, of course.

Read more about the project