23. April 2015

Home for sunrise technologies

The Centre for Photovoltaics and Renewable Energies has made a name for itself as a think tank for the energy transition

Centre for Photovoltaics and Renewable Energies (ZPV) in Berlin Adlershof
The architecture says it all: The glass facade of the Centre for Photovoltaics and Renewable Energies (ZPV) spots an array of solar modules that not only supply the building with electricity and give shade to the foyer in summer, but also present a fascinating eyecatcher. Behind this facade, SMEs spread over a total floor space of 8,000 square metres are busy at work on the future of a sustainable energy supply. “The ZPV profits from the interaction of offices, conference rooms, laboratories, and production facilities as well as the rooms’ capacity for successive expansions, allowing these companies to grow,” said Director Kezban Saritas. She describes the Centre as an “exchange and synergy platform”. Above all, however: “The excellent infrastructure and the laboratory facilities let companies start straightaway, plug and play so to speak,” stressed Saritas. This also applies to the tenants who come to work by electric car, pedelec, or electric scooter: they can soon make use of charging stations. Here, the energy transition has come to life. Jens Hanke, Managing Director of Graforce Hydro and one of the first tenants, is thrilled by this consistent step. “As a company operating in the field of renewable energies, we appreciate the building’s sustainable energy supply supported by photovoltaics, heat pumps, and rainwater recovery,” said Hanke. He too praises the flexible expansion options for the rooms, emphasising their “high tech facilities”, above all in the laboratories for chemistry and physics research. To boot, they are available at an unbeatably low net basic rent, under ten euros per square metre. Hanke and his twenty employees are at home on the third floor of the ZPV. There, they might be able to achieve the breakthrough the fuel cell has waited so long for as a key technology for electromobility and storage batteries: “Our goal is to provide the energy carrier hydrogen as a solution that both protects our resources and offers a viable business alternative. We want to touch the magic limit of three euros per kilogram of hydrogen.” To this end, Graforce has developed high-efficiency hydrogen generators based on the processes of plasma physics. Next year, the technology should be ready to launch. To date, a good two thirds of the floor space at the ZPV has been rented out to specialists covering a wide field of renewable energies. These include, for instance, DKIPlan, an engineering office for energy and building services; the laboratory service provider ILS Integrated Lab Solutions; Interbran Systems, a manufacturer of innovative composite heat insulation systems for facades; and X-Visual Technologies, a software company whose solutions help to optimise process steps in technical systems. The company Autarsys has made a name for itself as a specialist in self-sufficient energy supply systems. Its storage systems coupled with intelligent energy and battery management software can retain surplus electricity from regenerative sources and supply it as a steady current. Co-Director Matthias Roß explained that the company relies on lithium ion batteries instead of the customary lead–acid solutions, which take too long to charge: “Our technology transforms photovoltaics into a virtually self-sufficient power supply.” And that up to 25 percent cheaper than a diesel generator. The technology is used primarily in regions far from the national grid, for example in Kenya. And yet the ZPV still has room for more good ideas. According to Saritas’s precise calculations, about 2,500 square metres of laboratories and offices are still available. One special place at the Centre is turning out to be a kind of incubator for innovations: the “Albert Speisemanufaktur” on the ground floor. A popular meeting place during events as well, this canteen caters at lunchtime to the building’s tenants and the employees from Adlershof’s north grounds, where they mull over new paths to the energy transition. By Chris Löwer for Adlershof Special