University of Leoben is currently building up the NEFI Lab:InToPublic , which is based on the “Hardware in the Loop – HiL” approach. This makes it possible to combine novel energy supply and consumption technologies and flexible components as hardware depending on the task at hand. In the field of industrial energy system technology, this approach represents an innovative way to research into complex (hybrid) energy systems.
Establishing the NEFI_Lab:InToPublic aims at the networked integration of different, volatile renewable energies in a coupled energy system (hybrid network), in which different energy sources are coupled in time and space via flexibly operable elements in such a way that an economic or ecological optimum is achieved. This can be implemented by the so-called “Hardware in the Loop – HiL” approach.
This involves connecting different technologies on both the feed-in and consumer side, as well as flexible elements for balancing generation and consumption via network elements and thus integrating them as hardware into the overall energy system. In this way, the most realistic possible image of the entire hybrid energy system can be created. Each of the subsystems is connected at its inputs and outputs via ICT (information and communication technology) with adapted counterparts. Thus, the HiL-approach allows to integrate non-hardware elements via simulation models in almost real time and to include external producers and external consumers* (e.g. industry, electromobility, etc.) via the connection of HiL-compatible measuring devices. his means that both the overall system and its components can be optimised at the technology, system integration and operations management levels in the area of flexible applications without being in the same location.
This approach, which can be considered state of the art in the development of electronic and automotive components, is an innovation in the field of industrial energy systems technology and, in contrast to the international environment, has not yet been implemented at Austrian universities.
The vision is to be able to work on the development of optimal integration strategies of technologies into the energy system through integrated, cross-energy design approaches. Furthermore, the focus is on the analysis and optimisation of existing energy system technologies and the development of innovative ICT-based methods for controlling the energy system for cost-optimised energy use in the field of energy supply from fluctuating renewable energy sources (e.g. demand management, exergy-compliant heat recovery). With the help of the laboratory, design possibilities for hybrid infrastructure solutions of the future will be establishe.