Republic of Poland

At WUELS we draw power from the Sun

May 24, 2018

The Polish Parliament is working on the amended bill on renewable sources of energy. The regulations proposed by the government are supposed to enable us to fulfil international agreements which oblige Poland to increase the share of renewable energy in its energy mix to 15% by 2020. However, according to the Polish Statistics data, in 2016 the share was 11.3% and actually falling.

The race for better ways of producing and storing energy is going on all over the world, as are the efforts of some responsible global institutions and organizations to limit carbon dioxide emissions and other pollutions. Eurostat data shows that since 2012 the development of renewable sources of energy has slowed down in Poland.

Making up for the lost time requires not only systemic and political solutions but also involvement of the scientific world. At the Wrocław University of Environmental and Life Sciences, the Faculty of Life Sciences and Technology, one of the research priorities is to work on technologies for obtaining and utilizing renewable sources of energy. A popular degree course: ”Renewable Energy and Waste Management” received a “Studia z Przyszłością” (Studies with Future Prospects) certificate which is granted by a board including not only scientists but also businesspeople.

fot. Tomasz Lewandowski

Presently, our University not only conducts research and trains specialists but also sets an example by investing in its own renewable sources of energy. Photovoltaic panels on one of the most recognizable buildings of WUELS in Wrocław i.e. the Centre for Teaching and Research (CDN) – also known as “the aquarium”, in Grunwaldzki Square and on the Department of Physical Education and Sport building in Biskupin are the biggest photovoltaic panels installed on public buildings in Wrocław.

- The cost of the investment is over 7 million PLN but the value of such investments has to be seen differently – says Professor Adam Szewczuk, Vice-Rector for Development. – It’s not only about savings – specific amounts we will not pay for electricity from the mains. It’s also our involvement in decreasing CO2 emissions and it must be remembered that WUELS takes part in various antismog projects carried out in the city - so this is our contribution to the struggle for cleaner air. No less important is our educational impact promoting good environment-friendly solutions. Finally, our students gain an opportunity to learn how solar installations work in practice.

Solar power

“Solar radiation energy getting to Earth every year amounts to 780 000 TWh, of which 227 960 reach land areas and 325 TWh reach Poland. Energy requirements in Poland in 2010 were estimated at 141 TWh and in 2030 at 217 TWh. Solar energy reaching the edge of the atmosphere has the power of about 1.366 kW/m2 and it is a so-called “solar constant” – this is an extract from Professor Józef Szlachta’s lecture given during the inauguration of 2015/16 academic year. [editorial note: TWh, i.e. a Terawatt hour, equals a million kWh. A kWh is an energy unit we know very well from electricity bills - a fridge uses 190-200 kWh.]

fot. Tomasz Lewandowski

Professor Szlachta began that lecture with a remark: “The latest achievements in physics show us that all matter is a wave movement of light. In its spectrum the mystery of life is hidden. The air we breathe is saturated with energy giving and supporting life. We obtain this life power from the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe. In the last years of the 19th century, a Swiss doctor called Bircher-Benner, observed that the main source of nutritional values that the organism obtains from food, is light energy stored in plant tissues in the process of photosynthesis.

So, if one the most influential professors at the Wrocław University of Environmental and Life Sciences said that about solar energy, it was obvious that the institution itself was going to reach out for that source.

Follow our example!

No public building in Wrocław has as large an installation as the Centre for Teaching and Research of WUELS. The whole front wall of the building in Grunwaldzki Square was filled with photovoltaic modules. Thanks to that we will obtain over 80 kWp of power [editorial note: kWp means kW peak, that is the peak, maximum power. It’s assumed that a south-facing panel, having 1 kWp will produce 900-1100 kWh of electrical power.]

The building gains its own source of energy, which, together with other modernizing activities, should bring tangible and significant savings. It must be emphasized that the energy modernization of the building encompassed also a range of other actions such as changing the lighting from fluorescent to LED and introducing a modern system for lighting and heating control.

Warm water in the swimming-pool and a meteorological station.

Two solar installations, which will be officially launched on Friday, 25th May at 1 pm, were also put on the swimming-pool building in Chełmońskiego Street. One of them is a photovoltaic installation and the other – solar collectors. They have different tasks. The photovoltaic installation produces electrical energy powering all devices at the swimming pool (lighting, computers etc.) We don’t export the energy, we only produce for the University use. 84 sun collectors of 194 m2 serve as auxiliary heating for the swimming-pool water (auxiliary, because in in the autumn-winter period there would be too little of this heat for such a big pool).

fot. Maciej Zatoński

On the website we present updated information on the amount of energy produced and we calculate how much less carbon dioxide was emitted into the atmosphere thanks to photovoltaics at the Biskupin campus. This corresponds with the number of planted trees.

A significant indicator of the renewable sources’ cost-effectiveness, however, is always the number of kilowatt hours (kWh) produced by the photovoltaic panels. – We monitor the systems controlling the installations. 128 photovoltaic panels, each of them the power 300 W (watts), are monocrystalline panels of the efficiency of up to 22%, so the maximum power of the installation is 38.5 kWh (kilowatt) – counts doctor Adam Luberański from the University of Environmental and Life Sciences in Wrocław. The pool needs about 40-50 kilowatts of power. The photovoltaic is so designed that the more energy the panels produce, the less we will have to obtain from the power station. So in good weather and a lot of sunshine, the import of energy from outside may be null as our own energy will be sufficient for us.

- It means that in the spring-to-September season we can significantly reduce the costs of electricity. Of course the installation runs the whole year – stresses Luberański – but in our climatic conditions in the autumn and winter periods the energy will have to be “supplemented” from outside producers.

The installation on the WUELS buildings in Chełmońskiego street is equipped with optimizers, that is devices mounted near each panel controlling power and voltage in such a way that if, for example, the amount of power stored in the panels is more than needed, its production could be automatically reduced.

A testing ground for researchers and students

From the point of view of researchers dealing with renewable sources of energy the solar installations on the University buildings create a good opportunity to test various possible options, seeking for the most advantageous ones. That’s why, for example, some of the panels out of the 128 on the swimming-pool building are placed at a different angle than the whole installation. The photovoltaic installation is fitted with a mini meteorological station which will also serve nature scientists in their research.

fot. Institute of Building Engineering

It’s worth the effort

When it comes to the joint power of photovoltaic installations Poland is in the 20th place among 28 European states. Unfortunately, the amount of power obtained from panels per head places us in the antepenultimate place – according to the data of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). Most installations in Poland are privately owned micro-installations – states IRENA in its report on the 2017 photovoltaics market.

It’s time public institutions declaring their readiness to fight smog, support of sustainable growth and care for public health, invested in renewable sources of energy. WUELS will gladly share its experience and knowledge with others as well as educate future specialists – there are going to be 126 places available at the course of Renewable Sources of energy and Waste Management this year.

We must hurry, otherwise the world will leave us behind in this race along, for instance, the first solar road, which the French started in the north of France. A one-kilometre distance of road paved with solar panels supplies power needed to light a town with a population of five thousand. Another solar road has just been constructed in China – this time as a part of a motorway.

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  • “Carrying out the Renewable Energy Source Installations for the Indoor Swimming Pool Facility, 43a Chełmońskiego Street, Wrocław University of Environmental and Life Sciences” within the Regional Operational Programme for Dolnośląskie Voivodeship 2014-2020, Priority axis 3 “Low-Carbon Economy”, Measure 3.1 “Production and Distribution of Energy from Renewable Sources”, Scheme 3.1 A – total value of 1 618 619,73 PLN.
  • “Thermo-modernization of Educational and Research Facilities of the University of Environmental and Life Sciences in Wrocław” within the Operational Programme Infrastructure and Environment 2014-2020, Priority 1 “Reducing Emissivity of the Economy”, Measure 3.1 “Supporting Energy Efficiency in Buildings”, Submeasure 1.3.1 “Supporting Energy Efficiency in Civic Buildings” – total value of 5 498 123,54 PLN.