See how nature generates electricity
Sustainable power generation will help reduce the negative impact of human activity on the environment. This makes it the clear path for the future. “Nature is the most important thing we have,” says Petr Pavlík from the Technical University of Ostrava, at the start of the following video.
According to Petr Pavlík, there are three main ways of generating energy from renewable sources. The first is wind. Wind-driven rotors of wind turbines turn generators, which produce electricity. “Wind can set a turbine in motion even at relatively low speeds of around 10 km/h,” Pavlík says. “At low speeds like this the power plant has an output of, say, 25 kW compared to the 2,000 kW maximum it is designed for.”
From the perspective of “big” energy, building wind farms therefore makes sense where there is relatively consistent and stable wind. One ideal location is the Baltic Sea, where Germany has over 54,000 MW of installed wind power capacity. “There are also small local sources, micro-turbines, but these have a capacity of only a few hundred watts, which is enough to keep the lights on in a cottage,” Pavlík adds, indicating that even on a small scale wind power can help.
Hydroelectric power plants are another method for generating clean energy. In these facilities, electricity is produced by generators connected to turbines which water flows through. Norway is the European champion in the use of hydropower, producing as much as 99% of its electricity in this way. “Although water has enormous energy potential, from the global energy perspective it only makes sense to build hydropower plants on really powerful flows. But in the right conditions hydropower can also make meaningful contributions to the local energy sector,” says Pavlík.
There is already a bare minimum of locations in Europe where new hydropower plants could be built without massive interventions in the natural world. There is slightly more potential for what are known as pumped-storage plants. These work by pumping water into reservoirs at higher elevations during off-peak hours and then releasing this water through turbines to meet peak demand. Plans for new pumped-storage projects are at various stages of readiness.
Petr Pavlík works as an assistant professor at the Department of Power Engineering, which is part of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering of the Technical University of Ostrava. His post involves teaching activities and being a mentor for bachelor’s and master’s theses. In his research work he specialises in combustion engines and turbines, heat engineering and the use of cogeneration units for the production of electricity and heat. In addition to education and research, he devotes his time to popularising technical fields and energy, leading popularisation workshops that have been seen by more than 8,000 people.
According to Pavlík, photovoltaic power plants currently have the biggest future of all renewables. The advantage is that almost anyone can put a solar panel on the roof of their house, while at the same time solar farms can be built from the same panels. These can spring up on various brownfield sites, factory roofs or even car park roofs. “Solar has long been the fastest growing renewable energy source in Europe,” says Petr Pavlík. Another factor making photovoltaics so advantageous is the simple principle behind it requiring minimal maintenance: the sun’s rays landing on the panel directly generates electricity. “Of course, the panel only works when the sun is shining, so it’s necessary to store the energy, whether in batteries, by heating water or producing hydrogen,” Pavlík says, touching on another dimension of the renewables issue.
Photovoltaics have the biggest future in terms of private use.
These are not the only renewable energy sources, of course. But tidal and wave power plants or geothermal sources are geographically limited. Marginal sources that can be useful on a small scale include wind micro-turbines the size of a grain of rice, or electricity generated by thermoelectric generators working on the principle of temperature differences. There has been a lot of talk recently about nuclear fusion, which, if it can ever be mastered, will represent a fundamental breakthrough in the power industry. “So far, successes in this area have been very small-scale, and although there is talk of major progress from time to time, the road ahead is still long,” says Pavlik.
Sustainability and Škoda
Škoda is making increasing use of renewable energy sources in its car manufacture, thus significantly reducing CO2 emissions during production. The components factory in Vrchlabí has been operating with a completely neutral CO2 balance since the end of 2020; the company’s remaining two Czech plants will be fully carbon-neutral by 2030; while the production plants in India are scheduled to hit this target as early as 2025. In addition to using electricity from renewable sources, the company’s array of sustainability measures includes recycling waste, the use of sustainable materials, resource-saving processes and, to a large extent, environmentally friendly logistics.
The Czech carmaker is also investing massively in photovoltaic systems, which it is gradually installing at its production sites and service centres, for example. The largest rooftop photovoltaic system in the Czech Republic, with almost 6,000 solar modules, has been installed on the roofs of the Škoda Parts Centre and logistics building. The Škoda Service Centre in Kosmonosy has had its own photovoltaic facility since 2020. And solar panels are also in place at the Indian production plant in Pune: there are an impressive 25,770 photovoltaic modules here.
Smart logistics is also helping to enhance sustainability. For this reason, Škoda uses recyclable packaging to transport parts and components. High recycling rates and the extensive use of already recycled or recyclable materials contribute to further emissions reductions.
More information on Škoda’s sustainability measures can be found here.