Just as the progress of a being shows its life, the growth in a nation shows that it has great abilities. Europe, for one, has shown immense growth in the past three to four years alone. Following act 21 of the RED II (Renewable Energy Directive II), efforts have been made to bring Europe to its target for renewable energy by various bodies.
Interestingly, the statistics of the energy economy in the European Union (EU) show an increase in the production of renewable energy. In 2019, it had the biggest share in primary energy production (36.5%) and so looks productive. As more renewable energy projects come up, more technologies come up to keep up.
More so, to achieve the factors on which sustenance energy thrives (energy security, environmental impact mitigation, and social equity), some ways of keeping sustainable energy effective have come up. One of the most effective is energy communities.
In the same way projects in the US like the Butler solar facility, Comanche solar, and the rest are making progress, Europe is maximizing sustainable energy by doing more energy projects. Energy communities in Europe are increasingly helping citizens contribute to renewable energy and see the effect as closely as possible.
One important thing that characterizes energy communities is citizens’ collective and organized action in producing and using sustainable energy. There are some projects currently going on in Europe whose influence is turning the energy sector around. You can find five top ones here, which we will discuss.
1. The Lugaggia Innovation Community (LIC) Project
The Institute of Systems and Applied Electronics (SUPSI) launched a project in 2019, which is gradually coming to completion in 2021. This project, the Lugaggia Innovation Community, was set up as a self-consumption community. After the municipality of Capriasca installed a solar photovoltaic plant on the roof of a kindergarten, users observed that the rate of consumption of this power was low. To maximize the energy, the LIC connects the kindergarten with ten nearby houses.
The technologies applied in LIC are of utmost importance as they apply key advancements. Two technical solutions provide the backbone of the LIC project – a centralized platform for energy management provided by Optimatik and a decentralized control system by Hive Power’s control module. This second solution introduces blockchain technology for a versatile application. The control that it provides caters to synchronization, payments, sensing, and actuation.
The LIC project is a strong one as it was initially experimental but now promises to be an innovation site. Processes are in place to make it as efficient as possible.
This project is being carried out in Zwevegem, a small town in West Flanders, Belgium. RE/SOURCED stands for Renewable Energy Solutions for Urban communities based on Circular Economy policies and DC backbones. It is focused on maximizing sustainable energy, conversion of heritage, and the circular economy.
There are three structural partners to the RE/SOURCED project, namely:
- the Province West-Flanders, and
With these three partners, the project is led by the intercommunale Leiedal and supported by Urban Innovation Actions of the EU. The project aims at transforming a former power station (established in 1912), Transfo, into an energy community.
Transfo is now a multifunctional site with homes, offices and other structures. It is a 10-hectare site preserved for its heritage and with a lot of significance. The citizens of this community are to benefit from the local power grid that is being developed. The focus is currently on making circularity applicable in renewable energy.
The DC grid for the RE/SOURCED project brings together various renewable energy sources – wind turbines, solar panels, and storage facilities. The idea of a circular economy comes into play in using more efficient materials for the demand of steel, copper, lithium, and the like to be met. The factor of material usage is great in the sustainability of energy systems.
With a focus on energy islands, the COMPILE project started in 2018 and is actively in progress. It is centred around the decarbonization of the energy supply process and community building.
There are up to twelve (12) partners in this project, and they all play roles in putting it together. The project has received funding from the European Union’s horizon 2020 research and innovation. It promises to make use of some tools to achieve its goals.
- COOLkit – this combines the elements of COMPILE’s toolset. All of this is for proper management of the energy community by communicating methods, motives and steps.
- GridRule – this tool is to help actors in the project know how to manage and control a microgrid.
- EVrule – for electric vehicle charging, an electrical charging station by Etrel is explored. This allows for a fair distribution of available power for charging.
- HomeRule – this platform allows users to understand the consumption of power and storage. It is connected with the EVrule and ComPilot.
- ComPilot – this tool is a digital platform. It would provide a stage for virtual social energy communities and work with the other tools.
- Value tool – helps consumers or communities that want to start or join the energy community. The tool provides various business models for these prospective users to explore.
4. The SCCALE 20-30-50 project
Scaling up, according to the project’s name, is a major focus of this project. It kicked off on the 7th of June, 2021, aiming to bring Europe closer to the renewable energy goals. RESCoop coordinates it. There are partners from 5 countries – Energy Cities member cities Leuven (Belgium) and Poreč (Croatia), the energy cooperatives Enercoop, Electra, Energie Samen, ZEZ and Ecopower and TU Delft.
The synergy among the technologies of these partners is on the move to power energy communities around Europe. It is set to create 25 energy communities and 34 community projects.
This project seeks to empower prosumers and create a platform where all can play a good role in the energy market. It is a project that is still under development and plans to be demonstrated in 4 countries on a large scale – Italy, Belgium, Spain and Greece.
WiseGRID integrates ICT systems in the distribution grids of energy to ensure flexibility of the grid systems. A set of technologies will be put in place to ensure smarter grids. The use of enhanced storage systems (batteries and heat accumulators) is a special highlight that WiseGRID will use to store energy from renewable sources.
Also, virtual power plants would be used to manage the controls in this project. Of the 21 partners in this project, several include Ampere Energy, ReScoop, Eco power, and so on.
Power generation, distribution, and control are critical anywhere in the world. Interestingly, the more we improve at anything, the more work we have to do. Catherine Pulsifer once made a quote on implied consequences – Life presents many choices, and the choices we make will determine our future. Therefore, as many as choose to solve the problems of energy sustainability must plan to take responsibility for the coordination it requires, even at the communities level.
The Problems LIC (Energy Communities) Solves
One particular sustainable energy source that is very reliable is the use of solar photovoltaic systems. The power supplied by the sun is more than any other source. However, various problems arise from solar power generation using photovoltaic systems.
- Operational challenges – the nature of solar production can be random. This is due to changing intensities of radiation from the sun. The photovoltaic cell produces the appropriate electrical energy each time, but the nonlinear state gives technical issues.
- Overloading of grid components – the produced voltage may not be consumed at the normal rate. This may cause overvoltage in the grids.
- High cost of self-generation – attempting to get power for independent use is expensive. Not only is it expensive, but it also is not profitable for distribution companies and operators.
Most of these problems are solved with the use of smart grids. Smart grids may be complex, but they allow for more efficient energy systems. They make use of technology to improve the communication, automation, and connectivity of power networks. The regulation is also very useful – when less power is consumed, production is reduced.
Also, when power production approaches its peak, there is an automatic regulation. The automation of the distribution process makes it easier to control and maximize the power generated. We minimize losses as a result.
How LIC works
To solve these issues in the public grid for the village of Lugaggia, LIC was set up. The Lugaggia Innovation Community (LIC) by the University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland (SUPSI) is an excellent step in the right direction. It is a community set-up that aims at onboarding house owners and the kindergarten around them to a smart grid.
Objectives of this project include:
- checking how acceptable the self-consumption communities would be to the community stakeholders
- making use of blockchain to decentralize the management of bills
- evaluating the needs and requirements of the practical LIC
- accessing the potential for local flexibility
- technically observing the effect of flexibility and how it can be exploited.
In order to reduce grid issues, in terms of unbalances encountered in the distribution grid and the accompanying tariffs and taxes, grids have been handled by this LIC. Starting from creating the self-consumption community (SCC), LIC meets the entire community’s pertinent energy needs. It is in line with all the energy ordinances and laws guiding SCCs. It is not enough to produce power; there is more need to get it to where it is needed and for it to be cost-effective.
The Approach LIC Takes
LIC’s resources consist of homes powered by solar panels and their installations (heat pumps and heaters). They are all first centralized using the OptiFlex-Innosuisse (a product by Optimatik, a Swiss Smart Grid solution provider) solution. This is by integrating all outlets in one grid and making use of a district battery. Once this is done, Hive Power comes in to play a vital role.
Decentralized energy management in LIC is done by implementing our community manager module on the Hive Platform. LIC requires this module to achieve a more flexible control. By the use of blockchain technology, the entire process is secured. These processes include sensing, actuation, synchronization, and even payments.
Major Contribution by Hive Power
Grid managers can easily assess all details and overview of the generation and consumption of power in the LIC project using the Hive Power Core Module. Appropriate measurement of energy and monetization is as well performed adequately with the Hive Platform. Once the value is known, it is sent to the blockchain.
The community got operational on October 1st, 2019, and had been experimented on. Some major milestones have been met, but overall, the LIC project has reached the halfway milestone.
Some of the blockchain activities have been set off. LIC has already gotten a second-layer solution using sidechain technology. This solution was developed, implemented, and tested in the LIC in 2020.
Also, the capability to preserve the prosumers’ privacy has been seen to be useful. A dedicated technology (Auditable Tariff – AT) runs at intervals and stores data about the production and consumption of energy on the sidechain.
The goals of the halfway longitudinal study were majorly to examine pilot activities from the users’ point of view and to evaluate attitudinal changes during the activities. In the end, it was seen that there were no major changes when a survey was taken. This survey was taken twice, at the beginning of October 2019 and recently in December 2020. More particularly, the observed effect of the Lugaggia SCC remained stable.
Current Activities on LIC
Tests on electrical water heaters defined as Domestic Hot Water (DHW) and Heat Pumps are currently ongoing. This is to follow up on the actuation tests on the flexibility done in the last part of 2020.
Also, the current work in the LIC is focused on the adaptation of the industrial version of the OptiFlex solution. It is ongoing and will continue till July.
Considering that this is the last year for the LIC project, the plan has been to focus on the industrialized version of the solution given by OptiFlex. That is, the device to be used for centralization. From August till the end of the year, we will be testing an improved version of the algorithm of decentralization. Further tests on the DHWs would also be conducted with more controlled devices.
The LIC is also participating in the PARITY H2020 project, whose trials would begin in 2022. The project would address issues in existing distribution grids. The efficiency promises to be improved.
The approach provided by Hive Power’s solution (decentralized control) would also be extended and utilized in various business and regulatory environments.