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Vacuum for the Renewable Energy Industry

The technology we need to harness renewable energy sources is created with help from Busch vacuum pumps.

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Busch vacuum pumps transforming renewable energy production

Vacuum technology from Busch can help make the world a greener place. From infusing wind turbine blades to growing the silicon for solar panels, renewable energy is generated with help from vacuum pumps from Busch.

As society seeks to transition towards cleaner and more sustainable energy sources, the renewable energy industry is constantly evolving and advancing. Conventional energy production is one of the planet’s largest polluters, responsible for a significant proportion of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Renewable energy sources can help us cut these emissions – and our carbon footprint – drastically.

Discover how vacuum is used in the process of harnessing renewable energy, and how it is helping make other areas of energy production greener and more efficient.

Generating renewable energy with vacuum

Vacuum solutions for solar energy

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The solar industry is currently the fastest growing area of the renewable energy sector.

Manufacturing solar panels with vacuum

In the manufacture of solar panels, vacuum is indispensable. Under vacuum, the silicon crystal that each individual solar cell is made from is grown. Vacuum also plays a part in the coating and laminating of solar modules, ensuring that these are applied evenly and without bubbles to ensure the longevity, high energy efficiency, and peak performance of the panels.

Use our product finder to find matching products for your vacuum application:

Ingot casting

Laminating of solar modules

Solar thermal power

Aside from solar panels, there is another option to create electricity from the sun’s rays.

Thermal solar power plants use highly reflective mirrors to reflect and concentrate solar radiation, either individually onto a pipeline or collectively onto a tower. In both cases, the focused solar energy heats up synthetic oil or molten salt to extremely high temperatures. This then passes through a heat exchanger, where the heat from the oil or salt is transferred to water to create steam.

From here, the process is similar to that of a conventional fossil-fuel power plant, with the steam driving a turbine to generate electricity. The vacuum application is also the same. A DOLPHIN LB liquid ring vacuum pump is connected to the condenser, where the steam returns to water.

Before the turbine is started, the vacuum pump evacuates the air and any other non-condensable gases in a process known as Hogging. Keeping the condenser under vacuum increases the efficiency of the condensation process, as there is no air present to cause an insulating effect.

The energy transfer of heat to mechanical energy is also made more efficient by minimizing back pressure on the turbine. Once the appropriate vacuum level is achieved and the turbine is running, it is then essential to continuously remove air in-leakage. Through this process, known as Holding, the optimal vacuum level is maintained.

Vacuum solutions for the wind power industry

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When the wind catches the blades of a wind turbine, they turn. The rotor connects them to a main shaft, which spins a generator. Wind power is a clean, zero-emission energy source.

Vacuum bagging

As demand grows, so do the wind turbines themselves. The largest off-shore turbines now reach rotor diameters of nearly 260 m – the equivalent of five Olympic swimming pools placed end to end. To produce these enormous blades, multiple layers of compacted material are fused together. This creates a blade that is both light and stable.

First, the different layers, consisting of fiberglass, balsa wood, and polymer foam, are laid carefully in a mold, and a vacuum foil is sealed over the top. Vacuum is then applied, drawing all the air from under the foil and causing it to lie flat against the different layers of material. Once the correct vacuum level has been achieved, resin is suctioned in and pulled through every layer of the blade, completely saturating them and fusing them together.

This makes for an extremely strong blade that can withstand any weather conditions it has to face.

Matching products

Gas extraction with vacuum in geothermal energy production

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Geothermal energy uses the planet’s own heat to generate electricity. Unlike solar and wind energy, it is a stable and dependable source and does not vary according to current weather conditions.

It taps into reserves of hot water and steam deep within the earth. These are drawn to the surface, where they are separated in a flash separator before the steam is used to drive a turbine. The steam is then condensed into water and the water reinjected into the reservoir, closing the loop and enabling a fully renewable process. However, this steam contains high levels of non-condensable gases, such as carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide, which must be removed to maintain the optimal vacuum level in the condenser.

A large liquid ring vacuum pump, such as the DOLPHIN from Busch, is therefore used to extract these gases during the condensation process.

Matching products

Compressors for biogas production

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Biogas is a renewable source of energy that is produced when organic matter breaks down. It can be obtained from such sources as agricultural waste, sewage, and municipal waste.

To create biogas, organic waste is broken down by microorganisms in a tank called a digester. As biogas is produced, it is suctioned out of the top part of the digester, compressed with a compressor and fed back into the sludge at the bottom of the digester. This constant movement of gas through the sludge has several benefits. It helps ensure that heat is evenly distributed. The activity of the bacteria in the tank increases, meaning that biogas production is more efficient. The constant movement also helps recirculate the waste and avoid sediment accumulating at the bottom of the tank.

Matching products for circulation

Vacuum for greener energy

Stabilizing electricity from renewables

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Conventional power generation, such as in a coal, oil, or nuclear power plant, relies on steam. By burning coal or oil, or by nuclear fission, water is heated and evaporated.

The steam then drives turbines and generators at a constant rate to create electricity. In the event of a drop in power output, the turbines will continue to turn for a few minutes. This provides system inertia, ensuring that the power grid maintains a steady frequency, no matter how much power is currently being drawn or generated.

When power is generated by wind turbines, or by solar panels, there are no steam-driven turbines. This leads to a less stable grid. One solution is to use the energy these renewable sources produce to turn large flywheels. These large, heavy wheels then fulfil the same purpose as the turbines in a power plant, providing continued energy flow when production drops or demand increases.

To reduce air resistance, they are turned under vacuum. This means they require very little energy to keep them running – making them very efficient.

Matching product: COBRA NX 0650 A

Hydrogen fuel cells

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Hydrogen fuel cells generate electric current through an electrochemical process, which means they don’t burn fuel like traditional combustion engines, and do not produce any harmful emissions. Hydrogen and oxygen combine to produce electricity, with water and heat as by-products. This technology can be used to drive the motor in electric vehicles, to provide backup power in critical infrastructures, or to supply electricity to large ships.

Busch has made a decisive contribution to the efficient use of this sustainable technology by launching the first TÜV-certified hydrogen recirculation blower. The blower recirculates excess hydrogen, ensuring that it can be reused.

Matching product: MINK MH 0018 A

Lithium battery manufacturing

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Road transport accounts for approximately 15% of all global CO2 emissions. As e-mobility grows in popularity and lowers in price, it is a strong method of bringing this sector’s emissions down. And the beating hearts driving this change are lithium-ion batteries.

Vacuum is critical in the manufacture of batteries for e-mobility. The electrode slurry, the key component for energy transfer inside a battery, is mixed to ensure a homogenous paste and dried to gently remove excess moisture. Then the battery cell is evacuated and filled with electrolyte. Afterwards, the cell is impregnated, and the electrolyte is degassed. All under vacuum.

Matching products

Carbon capture

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Burning fossil fuels in a conventional power plant releases enormous amounts of carbon dioxide every day. However, there is an alternative to discharging this directly into the air. Some power plants and other carbon-heavy industries are now investing in industrial carbon capture technology, limiting or even eliminating the carbon that they release into the atmosphere. This technology uses vacuum pumps to capture the CO2.

Direct air capture (DAC) is an alternative method of carbon capture. Rather than being situated at the source of the CO2, DAC extracts carbon dioxide straight from the ambient air. It can therefore be used as a complementary method to reduce the emissions that are already in our atmosphere, rather than preventing them from being released.

Whichever method is used, there are two options for the carbon dioxide once captured. The first is permanent storage. The CO2 is mixed with water to create carbonic acid. Then it is pumped deep below the earth’s surface, where it reacts with the basalt bedrock, mineralizes and forms a solid.

The second option is to recycle the carbon dioxide. It can be used directly to stimulate plant growth in greenhouses, or for fire suppression. Or it can be used to create other chemicals, such as melamine, glue, or fertilizer.

Learn how Climeworks uses direct air capture technology to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere:

Direct Air Capture