Producing sustainable energy is the key to reducing the negative impact of human activities on the environment. Renewable sources are a fundamental resource, even for electric mobility. Which are the most efficient and how are they used?
Sustainability is not only about vehicles and how they are manufactured, but also about energy production, which will be key to reducing the negative impact of human activities on the environment. And ŠKODA's commitment joins not only that of the entire automotive industry, but also that of the European energy sector.
So let's take a look at the main renewable sources and how clean energy can be produced from them, with the support of an expert: Petr Pavlík, Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering in the Technical University of Ostrava, in the Czech Republic, according to whom there are three main ways of generating energy from renewable sources: wind, water and the sun.
Petr Pavlík, Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering in the Technical University of Ostrava
A wind power plant consists of wind turbines whose wind-driven rotors turn generators, which produce electricity. "All it takes to move a wind turbine is low wind, even just 10 km/h, a speed at which a power plant generates about 25 kW, compared to the maximum 2,000 kW for which it was designed," Pavlík explains.
From a macro-energy perspective, building a wind farm makes sense in those areas where the wind is relatively consistent and stable. The Baltic Sea, for example, is an ideal spot: here Germany has installed wind power capacity for more than 54,000 MW. "There are also small local sources, such as micro-turbines, but they generate a few hundred watts and are at most enough to keep the lights on in a cottage", Pavlík adds.
Hydroelectric power plants are another method for generating clean energy: electricity is produced by generators connected to turbines through which water flows. Norway is the European nation that produces the most hydropower, covering as much as 99 percent of its total production. "Water has enormous energy potential but it only makes sense to build hydropower plants if you have really powerful flows. Under the right conditions, hydropower can make meaningful contributions to the local energy sector", Pavlík resumes.
There are already some locations in Europe where new hydropower plants can be built without destabilizing the surrounding nature, but also so-called pumped storage plants have good potential. They work by pumping water into reservoirs at higher elevations during off-peak hours and then releasing this water through turbines to meet peak energy demand.
Again according to Pavlík, photovoltaic power plants currently have the most promising future, compared to other renewable energy sources. One big advantage is that almost anyone can install a solar panel on the roof of their house, and solar farms can also be easily built on various brownfield sites, factory roofs or car park roofs. "Solar has long been the fastest growing renewable energy source in Europe", Pavlík explains.
Another factor that makes photovoltaics so beneficial is that it requires minimal maintenance, since the sun's rays hitting the panel directly generate electricity. "Of course, the panel only works when the sun is shining, so it is necessary to store the energy using batteries, by heating water or producing hydrogen".
There are also other methods of generating renewable energy, which can take advantage of tides and waves, or geothermal plants, but these are geographically limited solutions. There are marginal sources that may be useful on a small scale, such as micro wind turbines the size of a grain of rice or thermoelectric generators working on the principle of temperature differences.
There has been a lot of talk recently about nuclear fusion, which could be a major breakthrough in the energy industry, but we need to find a way to master it. "The successes achieved so far in this area have been on a very small scale, and although there is occasional talk of major progress, the road ahead is still long", Pavlík concludes.
ŠKODA is increasingly using renewable energy sources in its car production, significantly reducing CO2 emissions. As of the end of 2020, the Vrchlabí plant is fully carbon neutral, while the other two plants in the Czech Republic will become so by 2030; the production plants in India will reach the target in 2025.
In addition to the use of renewable energy, ŠKODA's sustainability strategy includes recycling waste, the use of sustainable materials, judicious resource management that enables significant savings in this regard, and the implementation of environmentally friendly measures at the logistics level, for example, the introduction of recyclable packaging for the transport of parts and components. ŠKODA is also investing heavily in photovoltaics, which it is gradually installing in its facilities and service centers. On the roofs of the ŠKODA Parts Centre, the central parts warehouse, and its logistics building, the largest rooftop photovoltaic system in the Czech Republic has been installed, with nearly 6,000 solar modules. As many as 25,770 photovoltaic modules are positioned at the Indian plant in Pune.
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