Energie Agentur Steiermark
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Review International Student Camp 2018 - Bioenergy & Biorefinery Issues in Austria

In February 2018 (26.02.-02.03.2018) the Energy Agency of Styria, supported by Graz University of Technology and University of Twente (NL), organized an international student camp focusing on challenges in the field of regional bio resources.

In total 23 students from 12 nations and seven disciplines worked on four different challenges, which were provided by important regional stakeholders. Two departments of the Administration of the Federal Government of Styria, Styrian Chamber of Agriculture and BioEnergie Mureck provided the challenges and practical support.

The final presentations were held on 2nd March 2018 at Graz University of Technology in a festive atmosphere.

Challenge 1 was provided by Administration of the Federal Government of Styria (Department 15 Energy and Building) and dealt with the Styrian Climate and Energy Strategy 2030. The strategy was published in January 2018 and focuses on eight priorities. Three of these priorities were extracted for the group work: energy production and distribution, public sector as rolemodel and economy and innovation. Goal of this challenge was to pick one priority and develop a strategy for a successful implementation. The group decided to focus on energy production and distribution and to concentrate on the Styrian solar potential. Based on the Styrian solar potential map, they calculated the possible annual PV generation for the city of Leoben and upscaled it for the whole region of Styria. The Styrian Climate and Energy Strategy assumes a total solar potential of 4 PJ. According to the students, this amount of energy can be reached by installing a capacity of 2,15 GWp and investing € 2,7 billion. In addition, storage possibilities including power to gas technology by producing hydrogen were analysed and suggestions for motivating and including the Styrian population made.

The Styrian Chamber of Agriculture provided challenge 2, which was about developing a successful image campaign for energetic use of biomass. In Austria, Biomass can be considered as the most important renewable energy carrier. However, other renewable alternatives such as photovoltaic and hydro power are much higher accepted by the public. This perception shall be changed to a more positive image, using specific and target group oriented media campaigns. The results of the group were an analysation of the general perception of biomass and the development of an image campaign. For a successful campaign, they intendent to use key words such as “sustainable, renewable, innovative technologies and new business possibilities”. Additionally, a strong focus shall be created on the regional aspects of biomass use (regional jobs and added value). Besides this, strategies for reaching different target groups were developed and a new logo and slogan created.

Challenge 3 was provided by regional company BioEnergie Mureck The region Mureck is a pioneer in integrated and decentralized bio energy production. Since decades, local bio resources are innovatively used within a sustainable energy and resource cycle. Several valuable initiatives such as biodiesel  and biogas production, photovoltaic with citizen participation and local heating network enables Mureck to partly operate self-sufficient, even in case of an energy blackout. The following questions were worked out during the camp week: how can Mureck increase its annual CO2 savings from 57.000 tons to 115.000 tons and how can we create 80 additional jobs in the region? As results, the group proposed several strategies such as changing the engine of the biogas plant, including ORC and installing a heat recovery system at the district heating facility. They also intended to use carbon capture and storage technologies and to implement vertical farming in the greenhouse for increasing productivity. Additionally they prepared an educational and promotional concept for Mureck.

The Administration of the Federal Government of Styria (Department 14 Waste Management and Sustainability) brought in the fourth challenge. Municipal solid waste is disposed by every citizen – it is everything which is thrown in the bins or brought to the local recycling. If we take a look at it closely, a lot of this material are bio-resources – e.g. kitchen waste, garden waste or waste wood. About 16% are organic resources. Goal of this challenge was to use creativity and develop new products out of these waste streams. As a result, the students proposed separation techniques and concrete ideas for new products. Old clothes and papers can be processed to fibres and chemical products by fermentation processes, coffee grounds may be used as fertilizers or used to make coffee oil and biodiesel and cigarette filters may be recycled for producing cellulose acetate. Additionally, usage paths for human hair were designed and the new idea of wormification (processing of organics and plastics) presented.

Main factors for successful results were the interdisciplinary and international concept. Although the setting might be challenging for all participants, students learned how to work in an unknown working environment and how to think out of the box. The whole week of the student camp was characterised by creativity, great variety of ideas and respectful social interactions. Besides regional problem owners, the academic supervisors of Graz University of Technology and University of Twente as well as the organizing team of Energy Agency of Styria was impressed by this innovative learning format. In the long run, a student camp shall be implemented periodically in Graz.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement N 656760.
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