District heating & cooling

To transform Bolzano and Innsbruck to smart cities – cities that consume less energy and are a better place to live – the district heating and cooling weight is optimized. The more efficient system allows the citizes to heat their houses while consuming less energy and saving money.

The district heating networks of both SINFONIA demo cities is extended and optimised to increase the use of renewable energy sources by 95 % and reduce the use of fossil fuel by 22 %. Measures include:

– Deployment of a low temperature grid;
– Recovery of heat/cold from local industries;
– Integration of solar energy and innovative biomass gasification.


Implemented measures in the demo cities

In Bolzano, the district heating & cooling network is extended and optimised to reduce both the CO2 and the nitrogen equivalent emissions. Measures include:

  • Real time monitoring and forecasting of peak loads and energy demand;
  • Hybrid hydrogen/methane backup system;
  • Study on recovery of wasted energy from local industrial park.

In Innsbruck, the energy providers IKB and TIGAS implemented various smart heating systems primarily based on renewable energy sources and waste heat, using several heat sources. Through a smart combination of various technologies (see below) and processes the saving of primary fossil energy and carbon emissions is maximized and the air quality in Innsbruck is improved.

  • Power House Rossau

    The former waste water treatment plant was transformed into the Power House Rossau.

    © IKB

    The Power House Rossau consists of four major sub-projects, namely:

    • Replacement biogas CHP
      In 2015 three “20-year old” biogas CHP were replaced with two 850 kWel and 930 kWth biogas CHP in order to increase the efficiency.
    • Sewage sludge drying system
      A new belt dryer was finished in August 2017. The sewage sludge of the Innsbruck waste water treatment plant is dried by using a smart combination of biogas, waste heat from biogas CHP and waste heat from a wood gasification plant. According to the calculation, the quantity of sewage sludge will be reduced from 15,000 tons per year to approximately 4,000 tons per year. This leads to a significant reduction of truck transports for disposal and thus to a reduction of CO2 emissions.

      © IKB
    • Biomass gasification plant
      This innovative plant for electricity and heat generation is using a newly developed technology. It started into operation in December 2016. Local wood residues from forest and public parks are converted into a wood gas that is efficiently converted into electricity and heat in a cogeneration plant. The heat is used as process heat for the waste water treatment plant as well as for the district heating grid of Innsbruck`s energy provider TIGAS. Additionally, the facade-integrated PV system delivers surplus electricity into the public grid.

      © IKB

      © IKB
    • Heating grid
      In 2017 the heating grid was installed in Innsbruck. Now the surplus of heat of the biomass gasification plant is distributed by a connection to the nearby restaurant at the public lake, to the public pool “Hallenbad Olympisches Dorf” and to the district heating grid of TIGAS Innsbruck.

      © IKB

      Originally, an energy output of about 300,000 kWh was expected, which corresponds to approximately 60 % natural gas savings. Contrary to this assumption, more than 80 % of natural gas could be substituted. In terms of the heating period, this would mean a saving of around 430,000 kWh natural gas per year.

      Watch the short clip below for more information:

  • Smart district heating/cooling Innsbruck

    Partner TIGAS was continuously expanding its district heating network in Innsbruck and has completed the main part of the district heating network in autumn 2016. Industrial waste heat was used either directly or boosed via absorption heat pumps in the network. In April 2016 an 8 MW adsorption heat pump was set into operation. It uses industrial waste heat from the company “Tiroler Röhrenwerke” that produces steel tubes for the district heating network.  Currently (2018) the district heating network has a share of renewable energies and industrial waste heat of 70 %.

    Partner IKB was building up the district heating network from powerhouse Rossau with a connection to the TIGAS network. The gap between the network of IKB and TIGAS was closed in autumn 2017.


Challenges & Solutions for smart district heating and cooling

A broad spectrum of challenges – focusing on financial, technical, legal/regulatory, administrative and social points – was identified in both demo cities in the course of a workshop with all contributing partners. For each of these challenges specific solutions were compiled throughout the project runtime and on that basis key-messages were formulated focusing on the main outcomes.

Keymessages for the successful implementation of district heating and cooling measures

Based on the experiences and findings by relevant stakeholders in Innsbruck and Bolzano the following key-messages were drafted:

Key-messages from Innsbruck

  • Keep in mind that utilities are bound to general laws as well as to additional national regulations.
  • Reasonable effort is necessary for data transfer (e. g. personnel costs, server rental) – this should be clarified in the very beginning of the project.
  • In order to avoid differences and friction during implementation, it is essential to define clear responsibilities and competences within the project consortium before starting technical implementations (for e. g. costs, material, equipment, execution).
  • Recording of data is a very sensitive process. It is recommendable to draft contracts between the various involved parties. For drafting such contracts enough time has to be budgeted.
  • Besides the consideration of legal challenges a technical analysis of the current situation is essential.
  • Considering legal regulations and the state of technology, smart grid and district heating can be implemented without major problems.

 Key-messages from Bolzano

  • Intensive collaboration of involved departments within the company or institution is essential for the success of a research project.
  • Start to deal with all administrative, regulatory and legal issues of implementing a demo activity at the very beginning of a project (5 years seem a long time, but sometimes they are not).
  • Make sure to have a very clear view on the actual situation and a vision of the final purposes of your planned activity at the start of the project.
  • Do a deep analysis of the technical details of the demo activity in the first months of the project and inform all relevant stakeholders about the outcomes.
  • Pay attention to map internal and external factors that may affect the project thoroughly. Procurement procedures always take longer than originally planned.

Comparison of experiences in the two demo cities

Challenges were quite similar in both cities:

  • High investments costs.
  • Different institutions and different stakeholder groups need to cooperate and work together in interdisciplinary projects.
  • Long planning and implementation phases for large and innovative projects (legal, administrative, regulatory challenges) need to be considered.