Brand new laboratory for research into sustainable electricity supply
In order to achieve the climate targets, the Netherlands needs to generate much more electricity using the sun and wind. But is our electricity network even ready for that? Unfortunately not. In order to tackle this gigantic challenge, TU Delft is currently building a brand new laboratory: the Electrical Sustainable Powerlab, aka the ESP Lab.
The ESP Lab will be completed by the end of 2020, bringing not only a unique laboratory facility unrivalled anywhere in the world to TU Delft, but also boundless new research opportunities. To mark the start of work on the lab and the promising future ahead, a celebratory kick-off was held on Thursday 19 September.
Electricity network of the future
John Schmitz, Dean of the faculty where the new laboratory will soon come to stand, reflects enthusiastically on the kick-off event and emphasises the necessity of the lab: ‘Last year, only 15 per cent of Dutch electricity was from renewable sources. By 2030, that needs to be in the region of 70 per cent. But the electricity network of the future, to which constantly fluctuating sources such as solar panels and wind turbines, or more energy-depleting heat pumps, neighbourhood batteries and electric cars are connected, is highly vulnerable. It can easily become overburdened. That is why it is vitally important that we draw on the extensive technological expertise available at TU Delft to prepare the electricity network for the future. And that is what we will soon be doing in the ESP Lab. Not working alone of course, but together with our industrial academic partners, each of whom is invaluable.’
An ever-changing supply
For the electricity network of the future, it is important to be able to effectively anticipate the ever-changing supply of sustainable energy generators. If it is very windy or the sun is shining brightly, for example, more energy will be available. ‘The supply of energy is increasingly dependent on the weather, which makes getting everything to run smoothly more complicated,’ notes Professor Miro Zeman. ‘Fast-acting switches are one potential solution. Such switches could prevent interruptions suddenly paralysing an entire region. But the very same switches can also lead to disturbances in the electricity network, which can result in instability. In any case, that would certainly first need testing. It is also important to closely monitor the network, and that means collecting a huge amount of data. This data will soon give us a better understanding of electricity generation and usage.’
TU Delft researchers from the Electrical Sustainable Energy Department (from the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics & Computer Science) have already spent years puzzling over the switch to sustainable energy. Tim van der Hagen, President and Rector Magnificus of TU Delft, views their research into sustainable electrical energy as an unmissable step in the energy transition process. ‘What is great is that all of this expertise will soon be combined in the ESP Lab,’ explains Van der Hagen. ‘TU Delft will soon be home to an interdisciplinary lab that will host all of the research into safe, high-quality power supplies and energy transport. I am very proud of this development.’
Various research set-ups
Other speakers during the kick-off event were Manon van Beek (CEO of national grid operator TenneT and ESP partner from the outset) and Aukje Kuypers, General Manager of technical service provider Kuijpers which designs, builds and maintains technical installations in buildings and industrial locations. ‘As the primary contractor, we are responsible for the new construction,’ explains Kuypers. ‘And yes, for us, building the ESP Lab is a unique challenge. Not only in light of the significant aspirations of the lab, but also because various research set-ups are being combined. So we need to take countless special measures. After all, electromagnetic fields from test set-ups must not impact research being conducted by other researchers elsewhere in the lab. It is a fantastic commission for us.’
The Dutch Broadcast Foundation (NOS) recently reported on the ESP Lab. Via this link (from 09:58), watch a recording of the 8 o’clock news in which Professor Miro Zeman offers a detailed introduction to the value of the lab. Following on from this, journalist Heleen Ekker wrote the article TU Delft experimenteert met stroomnet, want dat is nog niet klaar voor de toekomst. She also had a beautiful animation made explaining how data centres, solar parks and buses are turning the electricity market upside down.
Electrical Sustainable Power Lab website
Prof. Miro Zeman, Electrical Sustainable Energy, TU Delft
T +31 (0)15 27 82 409