Looking ahead to the energy revolution in smart cities

Technological progress will make our towns real smart cities in the future: more economical, more efficient and more sustainable

ABB is fully cooperating with field labs to make this happen.

Technological progress helps us to be smarter about how we use our energy.  Now, if we link these innovations and use them on a large scale, we will turn our towns into real smart cities which will be more economical, more efficient and more sustainable. ABB is fully contributing to a number of pilot projects aimed to design the energy supply of the future. We’ve compiled short summaries of six of the most exciting.

Largest CO2-neutral smart grid in Europe in Zellik

In the research park at Zellik in Belgium, ABB is participating in the ‘Green Energy Park’ project. Europe’s largest CO2-neutral industrial microgrid is under construction there. The energy comes from tens of thousands of local solar panels and several wind turbines. By interconnecting them all, we will make it possible for 72 companies to exchange electricity between one another, the industrial park will be able to go partly off-grid, while also supporting the distribution network.

A research building will be at a central location in the park, where researchers will work on smart energy networks, energy storage and green mobility projects. It will also house one or more supercomputers. Any residual heat will not be lost, but will be used for the development of a heat network throughout the entire research park.

Heat and green power for 400 homes in Ghent

Ghent is building a brand-new neighbourhood at the Handelsdok: De Nieuwe Dokken. There will be four hundred houses and apartments, and several public amenities. We are helping to investigate how the local production of electricity – from wind turbines, solar panels, geothermal energy and even waste streams, and thus 100% renewable – can  be coordinated with local consumption. One of the major challenges will be to meet peak demand for electricity for the charging of electric cars and bicycles.

A heat network will be set up to provide the entire district with heat. A nearby company supplies two-thirds of the required heat, the remaining third comes from the waste streams.

The management of the entire project is also highly innovative. Through the DuCoop cooperative, the future residents will not only have a say in how their energy supply is organised, they will also be guaranteed good prices.

Power storage in batteries at district level in Gorinchem

In the Hoog Dalem district in Gorinchem, a pilot project has been running since 2014 in which surplus energy production was temporarily stored in batteries in the house and at district level. Monitoring and other smart applications at the homes of local residents provided insight into the evolution of their energy consumption. Intelligent technology then succeeded in reducing peaks in production and consumption, ensuring optimal alignment between them.

The system that made all this possible, called USEF (Universal Smart Energy Framework), managed to predict the power needs for the next day based on the weather forecast. It knew how much the batteries needed to be charged, but also when the washing machines in the neighbourhood could best be used. On days with a lot of wind and/or sun they could, for example, run at full speed, and then take a day off on dark and quiet days.

At the end of the initial project, the residents asked for it to continue. They now want to test how they can integrate blockchain, for example, and how they can directly supply energy to each other.

From old farm to energy-neutral home in Oud-Heverlee

In Oud-Heverlee, a farm dating from 1931 was converted into an energy-neutral house. Several new, innovative technologies are at work on the site, such as PVT panels (which generate both energy and heat), fuel cells, small-scale and seasonal thermal storage. Power which is not consumed immediately is stored in batteries.

This is a constantly evolving project. New materials and solutions are regularly added for testing. An entire set of parameters is constantly being measured. The equipment comes from different providers, and therefore their interconnection and communication is also an important part of the research project.

New earnings model for retailers

Can large retailers reduce their energy bills, while at the same time selling part of their locally produced energy to their customers? A feasibility study, which we are conducting together with the Antea group, should tell us whether this could be a new earnings model for retailers.

The first step retailers should take is spreading their energy sources. This can result in lower operational costs. They can, for example, avoid over-investment in the electricity grid and in heating and cooling circuits. This will allow retailers who install solar panels on their roofs and car parks to generate a significant part of their own energy needs.

Step two could then be the resale of the generated energy, for example to customers who want to recharge their electric vehicle. In fact, most new retail developments take place in near residential neighbourhoods, which require a great deal of energy. There might also be some opportunities for retailers in this area.

Data: the bloodstream of energy management

The smart generation, storage, distribution and consumption of energy will never happen without sufficient and correct data. Data are the bloodstream for the future energy supply. They also provide the basis for the development of innovative products and concepts.

That is why we are helping to create an Internet or Things Energy Cloud Accelerator. This should allow us to collect and analyse data automatically on a large scale. A prerequisite for efficient energy management is ensuring that all connected devices and systems are compatible. All of this is linked to our own ABB Ability™ offering. Whether in a house, business park, an entire neighbourhood or even a complete smart city.

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About the author

Peter Van Den Heede

Country Head Of Sales at ABB in Zaventem. Responsible for the Segment growth teams, account managers and business development in the Benelux. One of the 6 focus segments is Smart Cities. With ABB since 2007.
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