Main Innovation projects


Energie rinnovabiliRenewables

Enel Green Power continued in 2015 too with the realization of projects which were started in previous years and launched new, highly innovative projects by focusing on:

  1. sviluppo di energie rinnovabili in contesti urbani,
  2. development of renewables in urban contexts, through the use of smaller plant with a limited visual impact, such as cutting-edge wind generators and small thermodynamic solar systems, which are better integrated from the architectural viewpoint;
  3. use of new renewables, which are currently not exploited, with a particular focus on sea energy and highaltitude wind.

MERIC - Marine Energy Research and Innovation Center (Cile)

In 2014, Energia Marina, a Chilean company in which Enel Green Power Chile has a stake, won the tender to build the MERIC (Marine Energy Research and Innovation Center).

The Center aims to undertake research and development work covering technologies which use marine energy, and is supported by various organizations and local institutions (including foundations, academic institutions, research centers, and the companies Chilectra and Endesa Chile which belong to the Enel Group).

In 2015 the agreement was finalized to finance the project which commits CORFO (“Corporación de Fomento de la Producción”, the organization for economic development of the Chilean government) to providing a total contribution of around 8 million euro in favor of marine energy over the eight years that the project lasts.

In Italy the first plant in the world which combines geothermal and biomass

In July 2015 Enel Green Power connected to the grid, at the geothermal plant “Cornia 2” in the Municipality of Castelnuovo Val di Cecina, in Tuscany, the first plant in the world which uses biomass to heat geothermal steam, with the aim of increasing energy efficiency and electricity production from the geothermal cycle. The current geothermal plant has been joined by a small plant powered by “short supply chain” virgin forestry biomass produced within a radius of 70 km as the crow flies from the plant: thanks to the biomass, the steam being input to the plant is heated to go from an initial temperature of between 150 and 160 °C to 370-380 °C, so that it increases the net power for electricity production due both to the greater enthalpy of the steam and to the yield from the cycle linked to the reduced humidity in the production stage. This is a very valuable technological innovation since its environmental impact is next to zero and it integrates a pre-existing industrial plant, maintains the complete renewability of the resource and of the cycle and indeed combines two renewable sources for energy production which opens up new scenarios internationally. The 5 MW output increases production capacity by over 30 GWh/per annum and, overall, the operation allows a further saving of CO2 exceeding 13,000 tons annually. There is also a very significant impact on employment which, given the direct and indirect operations to source the raw material in the short supply chain process, numbers between 35 and 40 employees.

Other benefits arise from the efficient use of agricultural and agro-industrial sub-products, from the optimal maintenance of forests with the consequent prevention of hydrogeological risk, from the sustainable development of energy-producing crops and from the significant availability of co-generated heat.

Energy storageEnergy storage

As well as continuing with the installation of energy storage systems on wind power plants, Enel decided to focus on residential energy storage. Partnership agreements were signed with leading companies in the sector, with the aim of developing integrated energy storage and photovoltaic systems, testing them on the market and, subsequently, selling them in countries with a high business potential, starting from South Africa. Residential energy storage systems allow consumers to store their self-produced energy, for example through photovoltaic systems, in batteries to use it subsequently to power their home should this not be connected to the grid or in the event of a power blackout.

Also in the field of conventional energy generation, the advantages of integrating energy storage systems have been tested, albeit on a larger scale. A valid recent example in this sense is the installation, on the island of Ventotene, of a lithium-ion battery (300 kW/600 kWh) which is fully integrated into the existing diesel generator system paired with an ad hoc optimization and control system.

Infrastrutture per la mobilità elettricaElectric transport infrastructure

Electric transport represents an increasingly important sector to be developed, above all for its numerous benefits such as reduced carbon dioxide emissions and noise pollution as well as the possibility of using the vehicles, through their batteries, as distributed energy storage systems.

Over the past year, Enel has intensified its commitment to electric transport by developing numerous projects, including the alliance signed with Nissan, but also “Zem2All” (Zero Emissions Mobility to all), which introduced a fleet of 200 electric vehicles in Malaga and the development of the necessary recharging infrastructure, and the “Electric transport in Santiago del Cile” program, for the realization of recharging infrastructure in collaboration with the public authorities in order to promote electric technology and the development of ambitious business models in the public transport sector.

Endesa in Spain launches a new electric transport project for employees

On June 1, 2015 Endesa, in order to promote electric transport as one of the factors in change and promoting a zero emissions energy model, launched an electric transport proposal for its employees, including different types of vehicles and various incentives. The initial target was to involve 100 employees. At December 31, 158 electric vehicles had been purchased and will allow the annual saving of over 300 tons of CO2 emissions in Spain.

Servizi di reteGrid services

Enel has always been committed to numerous initiatives aimed at innovating energy distribution mechanisms in order to constantly improve grid efficiency. Through the collaboration with the start-up Athonet Smartgrid, which has developed a system capable of creating a high-speed, low-latency private data network, Enel can provide telecommunications coverage to plants located in areas that are not served by other operators and to manage confidential data. This system has already been applied to some generation plants, such as the Federico II plant in Brindisi. This solution generates considerable positive externalities because in addition to serving Enel’s plants, it serves their surrounding areas.

In addition, the Group has decided to use the Athonet Smartgrid technology in the project that will lead it to develop its own virtual telecommunications network, making communication more competitive, in terms of costs and performance, to and between millions of Enel’s machines and sensors distributed throughout the area, and will create a new generation Industrial Internet of Things.

Innovazione negli usi finali dell’energia ed efficienza energeticaInnovation in the final uses of energy and energy efficiency

Expo 2015 represented for Enel an important moment in realizing a cutting-edge smart city. Among the most important experiences was certainly the realization of a solution for energy efficiency in the pavilions. In particular, through the EMS (Energy Management System) platform it was possible to control loads, distributed generation sources and storage systems, and, then, optimize energy flows on the basis of the specific needs of the end user.

Among the innovations in 2015 is the FLEXICIENCY project which will last 4 years and sees the involvement of four of the main electricity distributors in Europe which use a smart metering system (from Italy Enel Distribuzione, from France ERDF, from Spain Endesa, and from Sweden Vattenfall), the main electricity sellers, including Enel Energia for Italy in collaboration with aggregators, research institutes and the involvement of thousands of end users.

Through 5 large-scale initiatives the intention is to demonstrate how the availability of data from the meter which is made accessible by the distributor in real time can facilitate the introduction of innovative services for the end user (such as, for example, services for advanced monitoring, control over consumption, ranging up to flexible services), thus creating new opportunities in the energy market. In particular, in the Italian pilot project, Enel Energia will for the first time test “demand response” services for a year with 500 customers who have been recruited in the area around Milan.

Finally, in Rio de Janeiro, Enel is creating a house that can think for itself, by reacting to outside conditions to adjust the lighting and temperature, while generating more energy than it consumes (“We are Living Tomorrow”); while in Colombia, with a competition among teams from prestigious universities, the intention is to realize a prototype home which contributes to sustainability through the development of shared economies, collective spaces, waste management and sharing of knowledge (“Solar Decathlon”).

Generazione convenzionaleConventional power generation

Innovation in conventional power generation aims to improve the performance, efficiency and operational flexibility of plants and reduce their emissions and environmental impact, by evaluating and developing new technologies and available systems.

In keeping with previous years, work continued to characterize emissions of macro- and micro-pollutants on high-efficiency exhaust-treatment systems in Enel plants. Among other things, campaigns were undertaken to measure and test the containment of SO2 emissions. In regard to particulates, innovative materials were tested to filter smoke both in the pilot plant installed at the thermoelectric power plant at Torrevaldaliga Nord, but also through the direct installation in the full-scale filters of the Reftinskaya power plant, thus assessing the impact of the various plant configurations and coal compositions.

On the matter of residues, with the aim of finding a way to create value from them in economic and environmental terms, among the conventional power applications developed in recent years was the use of ash in the production of bricks and in the realization of highway works (see the chapter “Environment”).

In terms of robotics and advanced automation, the work was mainly focused on the development and demonstration in industrial contexts of robotized systems that can support and, in some cases, replace human intervention during maintenance work with a potential positive impact on timeframes, costs and the safety of operators.