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Newly endowed chair for water power – strengthening of renewable energy

Against the background of climate change, renewable energies are gaining more in relevance, whereby a key role is played by water power. Not only is it the most important renewable energy source world-wide, but also, like other renewables such as wind and solar energy, it contributes significantly to the supply of an energy mix into the electrical power grid.

With this background, the Universität Stuttgart has received a new chair for water power, endowed by two industrial partners; EnBW Energie Baden-Württemberg AG and Voith Siemens Hydro Power Generation GmbH & Co. KG (Voith Siemens Hydro). Each of the companies will provide two million Euro for one decade.

At the signing of the contracts on January 17th in Stuttgart, the Minister of Science, Prof. Peter Frankenberg, said “This newly endowed chair is proof of the industry's trust in the competence and capabilities of the Universität Stuttgart”. He emphasised that the chair meets the needs of research and development in the important field of hydro power and ensures the continued education of experts in this field. Vice chancellor Prof. Wolfram Ressel said “For the Universität Stuttgart, the funding is an appreciated strengthening in the area of energy and environmental research” and pointed out that the chair fits perfectly into the university's new research profile where it completes the already well positioned field of research in renewable energy, including water power.

Minister Frankenberg referred to endowed chairs as a good example of successful cooperation between business and science in the federal state of Baden-Württemberg. “The privately dedicated funds are of great interest for science and sponsors in equal measure. They bring undeniable advantages for the state of Baden-Württemberg as a scientific and economical location”, he said. With 91 dedicated chairs of this type, Baden-Württemberg is in a top position in the nationwide ranking.

“The EnBW wants to increase the proportion of renewable energies from today’s 16 percent to 20 percent in 2020. Besides geothermal sources we mainly focus on hydro power and want to take great efforts to optimally exploit the existing potential in Baden-Württemberg in the next years”, says Dr. Hans-Josef Zimmer, technical executive in EnBW's managing board. “An efficient scientific environment provides an important contribution to these plans and, moreover, sustains Baden-Württemberg as a business location.” Dr. Roland Münch, member of Voith AG's board of management, added that “In hydro power we deal with large machines and highly complex flow phenomena. And we want to encourage young people to deal with this challenging but also fascinating topic. After all, Voith Siemens Hydro is looking for 400 engineers to hire, just this year.”

Unique position in German-speaking countries

The endowed chair will be established in the Institute of Fluid Mechanics and Hydraulic Machinery. Wolfram Ressel emphasised that, after the retirement of the current director, Prof. Eberhard Göde, this enables the university to keep and improve the status quo. The institutes's tasks in research and education will include the typical disciplines of mechanical engineering such as design, applied fluid mechanics, hydraulic machinery, hydraulic transients, as well as new technologies in renewable energy production in the field of hydro power, such as tidal current and wave energy. Collaboration with other institutes in these application areas, also from the faculties of civil and electrical engineering and information technology will be expanded. “In Germany, this chair will be the only one that covers all aspects of water power in mechanical engineering. Due to the cooperation across faculties it will be unrivalled in the German-speaking countries”, said Ressel. In the research field of energy sources such as waves and ocean currents the chair had the potential to gain a worldwide leading position in this area. Today, the institute is already involved in the planning of the biggest ocean current power plant, which is currently being built in Korea in collaboration with German companies. Voith Siemens Hydro, one of the sponsors of the new chair, plays a significant role in this project. “The intermediate-term plan for the chair is that it should take over a primary role in establishing an interdisciplinary key activity in water power and its extension to a research and transfer centre”, announced Ressel. In the long-term, a PhD program with international partners is planned.

The sponsoring provided is for a total of five employees, including three researchers. Occupation of the professorship is scheduled for fall 2008, after the retirement of the present director of the institute. The Universität Stuttgart plans to continue the professorship after the initial ten years of endowed funding.

Andrea Mayer-Grenu | alfa
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