ABB helps power the Reichstag in Berlin

Mats Von Essen

ABB Ability-enabled technology works behind the scenes at the German Parliament

The Reichstag building has always held a lot of sway. When the artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude famously “wrapped” it in silver cloth in 1995, it became a worldwide phenomenon, drawing five million visitors who never saw the actual building.  But seeing it wasn’t the point. Wrapping it highlighted its significance as a symbol of a new re-unified Germany.

Even without the silver cloak, the Reichstag is an imposing structure with a commanding presence in the heart of the city, near the Brandenburg Gate and Berlin Wall. Planned as a permanent home for the parliament of the German Empire, construction was delayed many times, and, after ten years, it was finally operational in 1894. After all that, it has, ironically, only been the seat of power in Germany for 58 of its 124-year existence. While the establishment of the German Republic was announced from its windows in 1918, a famous fire in 1933 and subsequent bombing in the Battle of Berlin in 1945 left it in dis-repair for many years.

With the re-unification of Germany, and relocation of the Bundestag to Berlin, the building was renovated in 1999 and crowned with a striking glass rooftop dome that is now its most popular feature. The dome’s walls and mirrored interior cone were built to signal a new transparency in the country’s government and evoke the building’s original inscription above the main door, “To the German people.”  See-through walls and floor areas allow visitors 360 degree panoramic views of the city as well as a bird’s eye view into the heart of the German government — parliament’s debating chambers.

The dome is also “smart.” Its 360 movable mirrors reflect sunlight into the plenary hall, allowing plentiful natural light, and its open design at the top means that outside air can be cleaned and used for air-conditioning inside.  Heat and power come from biofuel which provides about 80 percent of the build-ing’s electricity. Photovoltaic fields on the roof and ground and a ground source heat pump also help with both heating and cooling.  Yearly carbon emissions have now been reduced from 7,000 tons to under 1,000 tons.

ABB technology enables the supply of power and helps the Reichstag and many of Berlin’s landmark buildings to be “smart.” An ABB Ability enabled MicroSCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) system controls and monitors the entire power network for many buildings. Remote Terminal Units are deployed as part of the distribution automation system and connect with the SCADA system in order to continuously provide data points, so that any type of disturbance that could cause power interruption can quickly be identified and rectified.

The MicroSCADA system helps to reduce the risk of operator error, while increasing the speed of response, and it makes it easier for the operators to manage one of the city’s most significant historical buildings 24/7, 365 days a year.

Similar ABB technology is also helping secure power in other areas of Germany. Almost 500 kilometers away, ABB has a similar set-up for distribution automation with the same type of Remote Terminal Units used for control and monitoring of the water treatment plant for Rheinisch-Westfälische Was-serwerksgesellschaft (RWW), one of the largest water utilities in North-Rhine Westphalia, Germany. With an 850-square-mile service area and a pipeline network of approximately 3,000 kilometers, it pro-vides drinking and industrial water service to more than 825,000 people as well as industry and commerce.

Real-time information from a SCADA system can minimize reaction time to problems, prevent critical situations, and provide real time guidance to the field service team so that problems can be quickly pinpointed. The system’s self-healing ABB Ability wireless mesh network also enhances reliability and performance even with trees and bridges in the way.

While historians continue to debate the exact architectural style of the Reichstag, with opinions that range from neo-Baroque to neo-classical to Italian High-Renaissance, its power supply is not in doubt, it is secured by state-of-the-art technology and ABB Ability.

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About the author

Mats Von Essen

I am the Local Product Group Manager for ABB Grid Automation Products in Finland.
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