The Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy has allocated 5.7 million euro to FLEXINet. In the upcoming years, the FLEXINet consortium will develop hybrid energy storage systems – capable of storing both heat and electricity. Pavol Bauer, professor at TU Delft and project leader and coordinator: ‘The aim of FLEXINet is a system that accelerates the energy transition. We hope to make a substantial contribution to reaching climate targets by cleverly combining various techniques – think of blending recycled batteries with flexible heat pumps and the charging of electric cars.’
In the coming years, the Netherlands will dispense with natural gas extracted in Groningen. Legislation passed in 2018 already forbids the installation of gas connections in newly developed residential areas, encouraging property developers to implement sustainable solutions for heating these houses. Mobility – all movement of people, goods and energy – is undergoing a rapid transformation as well. According to the coalition agreement of 2017, all cars sold by 2030 must be zero-emissions vehicles. These developments are a threat to our electrical grid. The FLEXINet consortium wants to help forestall serious problems. Laura Ramirez Elizondo, assistant professor at TU Delft: ‘Soon, it will all be about cleverly combining various techniques. Think of linking a house’s solar panels to an in-home battery or of a smart charging station on your driveway that charges outside peak hours and that can feed energy back into the electrical grid.’
A smart mix
The examples put forth by Ramirez Elizondo indicate that the future energy system will be based on a mix of energy carriers. Gautham Ram, who built a system that allows electric cars to be charged directly and quickly with solar power and who plays an important role in the FLEXINet project, adds that ‘our electricity and heat will be provided by a hybrid system controlled by smart algorithms. Profiting of various new technologies that can be cleverly combined, hybrid energy storage will play an important role. Think of new technologies such as micro-cogenerators (combining heat and power), adaptable heat pumps and vehicle-to-grid, in which your electric car is not only a means of transport but also a means for storing electricity.’ FLEXINet offers a complete and user-friendly solution, validated in living labs.
Next to the sites of the consortium participants, there are two living labs where research activities will be performed: The Green Village in Delft and Hilversumse Energie Transitie in Hilversum. A living lab is a demarcated and therefore safe area at which various parties collaborate on building innovative solutions in a lifelike setting. ‘Within the FLEXINet project, adaptable devices will be connected to the Home Energy Management System (HEMS) of living lab homes,’ explains Marjan Kreijns, director of the Delft open-air laboratory. ‘Smart algorithms of the HEMS will determine if a house will store electricity in its in-home battery or convert it into heat for storage in a thermal buffer. The HEMS subsequently communicates with an overarching energy management system to determine if local energy use (and related costs) can be reduced, and to assess if local grid congestion issues can be minimized or even completely prevented.’ This is an important step towards decentralised (semi) autonomous energy systems, which we will increasingly encounter in the future.
The MOOI subsidy scheme
It is the ambition of the FLEXINet consortium to introduce hybrid energy storage technologies into the built environment. FLEXINet is sponsored by the subsidy scheme for Mission-based Research, Development and Innovation (“MOOI” in Dutch). The goal of this ministerial scheme is to accelerate and implement climate-related developments. Solutions must lead to products and services that will be operational by 2030.