Concepts for the cultivation, production and use of vegetable oils

AUTARK 2000 projects

The world's first 100% renewable energy stand-alone grid hybrid-concept

The business purpose of Autark 2000 is the conception and execution of autonomous hybrid systems with 100% renewable energies. This also includes the provision of plant oils from sustainable cultivation strategies. After all, an integrated conceptual approach requires that focus is on the task of how the entire cycle - from sustainable production of the fuel to its combustion in the engine and the resulting emissions - can be closed insofar that negative changes affecting nature and people can be prevented. As part of the research required for this, Autark 2000 also awards doctoral studies and scientific work (cf. Markus Brautsch, doctorate on the subject of "A comparative total energy balance for photovoltaic modules and plant oil cogeneration units", Erlangen 1997).

The aim of Autark 2000 was to first implement energetically autonomous energy supply concepts in the mobile and stationary sector based on 100% renewable energies in high-alpine mountain huts. At the German Alpine Association's (DAV) Coburger Hut, Autark 2000 designed, planned and installed the first stand-alone power system in the world that generates power from 100% renewable energies. The starting point was a collaboration with the Freiburg Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE), which utilised the first off-grid photovoltaic stand-alone grids with gas engines as a back-up and peak current generator. Autark 2000's proposal to replace the fossil content with regenerative plant oil fuel in technical adapted engines was first planned and realised in 1992 by Peter Weber, DAV Hut and Trail Expert, Prof. Dr. Jürgen Schmid (ISE), his team and Autark 2000 at the Coburger Hut at an altitude of 2,000 m.

The Elsbett principle direct-injection special engines

The first generation of specially developed plant oil-compatible Elsbett special engines that were used at the Coburger, Nürnberger and Glorer huts proved to be limited in their performance and too expensive with regard to investment and maintenance due to a certain prototype status.

The VWP principle adapted series engines

The second generation of engines was developed for alpine usage by the United Workshops for Plant Oil Technology, Dr. Gruber, Kaiser, Weigel GbR. The fact that for the first time in the world, a series motor (Mercedes-Benz-OM-616) was utilised as the basis for specific technical changes to fuel circulation, injection and combustion processes, the available services, investments and maintenance costs as well as general service life increased dramatically (Priener Hut, Meiler Hut).

Third generation of plant oil engines

DAV Stüdl-Hütte (Großglockner, 2.801m) with vegetable oil CHP, photovoltaic and battery systemIt was the third generation of plant oil motors in alpine mountain huts that achieved the synergy that was desired by all players: low installation and maintenance costs with greater performance and higher service life > 15,000 hours. The Kubota series industry engine for plant oil developed by VWP, Dr. Gruber, Kaiser, Weigel GbR, was installed as a cogeneration plant in the lowlands (Oil Mill Reuss, Benediktbeuern Monastery, University of Freising - Weihenstephan, TFZ, Brunner Furnace Construction) and in the high-alpine with 100% renewable energy hybrid concepts at the Stüdl Hut (2,800 m) and Coburger Hut (2,000 m).

Monte Rosa hut (Zermatt, 2.883m) of the SAC with self-sufficient energy supply by vegetable oil CHP, photovoltaic and battery storageVirtually as a series motor for 100% renewable energy hybrid systems, the plant oil cogeneration unit with the Kubota engine once designed by VWP, Dr. Gruber, Kaiser, Weigel GbR, has already been installed in over 60 alpine locations, including the high-alpine model huts: 2,800 meters above mean sea level Stüdl Hut (DAV, Grossglockner) and Monte-Rosa Hut (SAC, Zermatt, installed by KW Energietechnik). (Source: "Den Boden bereiten für die Energiewende" [Preparing the Ground for the Energy Revolution], pg. 54-58. / Dr. Georg Gruber: "Pure plant oil as an environmentally-friendly and sustainable fuel in alpine mountain huts", Powerpoint presentation at the 14th International Hut Expert Symposium "Shifting Alpine Infrastructure" of DAV 2014 in Benediktbeuern.)

Autark 2000's research hut in Leutasch/hohe Munde

Hybrid technology at the research hutThe concepts and technical components of the first 100% renewable energy hybrid systems in alpine mountain huts ultimately encompass the same requirements and solutions that are needed for the energy transition of entire countries. Autark 2000's goal is to transfer energy transition technology from high-alpine mountain huts to increasingly larger lowland projects.  In order to synchronise the intermittent electricity demand of a property with the electricity supply of various renewable energy technologies without frequency interferences, Autark 2000 has been managing an autonomous research hut at an altitude of 1,700 m where development and prototype tests are done under extreme conditions.

Technology transfer from high alpine mountain huts to flatland projects

At the start of the 1990s, the general idea prevailed that less vaporable plant oils could not function in adapted series engines. This concern also affected plant oil fuel thereby denying its everyday usability. In this respect the first alpine hut projects obtained a multiple pioneering and demonstration function, particularly for flatlands. Once there was no better place to study the serious risks of diesel usage that threatened soil, water and air for exposed, sensitive alpine ecosystems. In the end, the costly first 100% renewable energy hybrid concept could only be realised after the Coburger Hut in the Zugspitze karst terrain was threatened with closure due to the threat to the municipality of Ehrwald's drinking water caused by diesel transport and refuelling losses. The high alpine pilot project location was a big technical challenge. However, no more doubts regarding functionality and fuel suitability were expressed after the pilot projects functioned in the coldest temperatures with complex requirements in conjunction with various renewable energy sources in the stand-alone grid without safeguarding from a power cable coming from the flatland.

Energy self-sufficient Reichstag

Energy concept of the German Reichstag with vegetable oil CHP for electricity and heat generation, with aquifer storage below the ReichstagAutark 2000's 100% renewable energy concepts in high alpine mountain huts were a model for the energy concept of the German Reichstag at an altitude of about 50 meters. Starting in 1996, Autark 2000 was the consultant for the executing engineering firm Sir Norman Forster, Kaiser Structural Engineering, and guided Bundestag representatives and the Federal Building Commission East and West to reference huts that were energetically powered by plant oil cogenerative units and photovoltaics. The German Reichstag was also to become a model for energy use and designed to be autonomous (also for security reasons). The electricity and heating needs are provided via a combination of solar technology, mechanical ventilation, plant oil cogenerative units and geothermal energy. Hereby the subsurface is also used as a seasonal cooling and heating reservoir via an aquifer (groundwater stream). Today, the German Reichstag is powered with biodiesel.

The Galapagos Islands Zero Fossil Fuel Initiative

Puerto Velasco Ibarra on Floreana/GalapagosAfter a tanker accident involving diesel provision to the Galapagos that caused the death of over 10,000 marine iguanas and other marine species, in 2007, the United Nations threatened Ecuador with revocation of its world heritage status, unless energy provision of the Galapagos island was converted to renewable energies. Based on the Ecuadorian government's "Zero Fossil Fuel Initiative for Galapagos Islands" announcement, in 2007, Autark 2000 was commissioned by the German Development Service (DED) of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development to aid in the conception of a power provision study for Floreana and the other three inhabited islands of the Galapagos Archipelago with exclusively renewable energy. The proposals persisted where just varying hybrid concepts of photovoltaics, wind energy, battery storage and plant oil generators operated with jatropha oil. Industrial solutions weren't ready either for application (hydrogen) or biofuels that were strategically designed worldwide as fossil fuel mixtures.

Landing of VWP's two jatropha oil generators on Floreana/GalapagosFrom 2010 to 2015, VWP Gruber installed and monitored two 69 kWel on the Galapagos Island of Floreana. Power generators with Flex-Fuel engines for jatropha oil, diesel and fuel mixtures together with a 25kW peak photovoltaic and battery storage, constituted the first stand-alone off-grid hybrid system on the basis of 100% renewable energy. The 100% renewable energy hybrid concept on Floreana served as a model project for the other three inhabited Galapagos Islands with significantly more residents and tourists, and therefore significantly higher electricity needs.

Conducting fuel consumption and emissions tests on five Isabela generator containers on the test bench of ABZ GeneratorenbauThe Zero Fossil Fuel Initiative for Galapagos Islands stipulated that the significantly larger island Isabela would only be equipped with the same hybrid concept of photovoltaics, battery storage and jatropha oil operated generators after many years of experience with the Floreana pilot project. Starting in 2009, Autark 2000 received an ongoing consulting contract from engineering firm Lahmeyer International GmbH, which was responsible for the development of the project, focused on responsible consulting for plant oil engine technology and plant oil fuel quality and procurement. The contract for supply and installation of the hybrid system went to Siemens AG. Five 325 KWel Scania generators with DTS Design and VWP Gruber engine technology were installed on Isabela in March 2018. The finished hybrid system with jatropha generators, photovoltaics and battery storage was handed to the client, ElecGalapagos in September 2018.

Here you can find a Youtube-Clip "Galapagos Islands Affected by Climate Change" from DW English, Global 3000.

Youtube-Clip "Galapagos Islands Affected by Climate Change" from DW English, Global 3000

Sustainable jatropha production in Manabi/Ecuador

Pilot project: Jatropha oil from ManabiAt the same time, VWP Gruber led a research and development project in Manabi/Ecuador from 2011 to 2014 for the production of DIN 51605 jatropha oil as a quality fuel for Galapagos, at a decentralised oil mill owned by a jatropha production cooperative of 3000 small farmers.

Worldwide cultivation strategy of jatropha in semi-arid regions

Semi-arid areas worldwide (Source: Köppen-Geiger climate classification)Based on the positive experiences with cultivating and utilising jatropha oil for energy provision on Galapagos, Autark 2000 is working on a worldwide cultivation strategy that follows strict sustainable criteria. Today, the term "biofuel" is often associated with negative aspects, like deforestation of the rainforest, "land grabbing" and "plate-tank conflict". An alternative plan is the cultivation of non-edible raw materials like jatropha curcas for biofuel production in areas that are not used for food production. The illustration shows a world map where semi-arid areas around the world are marked.

For sustainable production with positive social and economic effects, the cultivation of jatropha on marginal land is a sustainable solution. In this way, new jobs, incomes and better living spaces for disadvantaged populations can be created on previously agriculturally disadvantaged areas in semi-arid regions. The development of agriculture in these countries can also counter-act migration to wealthier countries. In 2017, Autark 2000 was commissioned by the German Watch Institute to conduct a study on the worldwide cultivation of jatropha on degraded semi-arid lands. The result of this study will be part of a larger scientific study on the conversion of the worldwide energy supply to 100% renewable energies by 2050.