24/7 Energy Lab

Just imagine every neighbourhood having its own local energy system, with no CO2 emissions and without putting pressure on the national energy network. That would be a real sustainable solution! At TU Delft, we have already started developing that system. We are building an installation that generates green electrons from solar and wind, stores energy in batteries and in hydrogen and converts hydrogen into electrons.

This is all set to happen in ‘The Green Village’ living lab on TU Delft campus. In this living lab with real homes and real residents and consumers, we are combining, testing and optimising existing knowledge and the latest innovations being developed at our university. The aim is to achieve CO2-neutral, autonomous energy provision, carefully calibrated to match energy demand and supply, at acceptable costs and suitable within the existing living environment A solution that in time will scale up from The Green Village to a neighbourhood, to a whole district.

Combining knowledge

Former Dean John Schmitz is closely involved in the 24/7 Energy Lab project. He explains: “Hundreds of scientists at TU Delft are working on the energy transition. If we bring them together in a single project and combine our knowledge, society can really benefit. The Green Village is a unique place and offers us the opportunity to achieve this necessary synergy.”

Our project in The Green Village is completely local and operates autonomously. I don’t think there’s a living lab set-up like this anywhere else in the world.

― Prof. John Schmitz

Making progress

“The first step we took was to make the electricity supply for each single household CO2-neutral by basing it on solar energy. We also hope to add a wind turbine at a later stage. Not a large-scale turbine, but one that fits into the local environment. In later stages, we will use the residual heat released by the system for heating homes as well. In three years’ time, we aim to have supplied the entire Green Village with locally generated energy from renewable, CO2-neutral sources. The project includes six households with twelve residents. If it is successful, it will can be expanded to a larger scale. The technology to achieve this is certainly not the only challenge we face. The solution also needs to be economically feasible and acceptable to residents. At the same time, current legislation and regulations have not yet been adapted to accommodate the energy transition. This is exactly why this project is so important. By combining and testing new and existing techniques in a real environment, we will discover all of the potential stumbling blocks.”

Integrated system

The Electronic Management System (EMS) is set to play a key role in this project. The EMS will coordinate the different technological components. It will take as many variables as possible into account, including the current weather, the weather forecast and the expected demand and supply. “The aim for the EMS is to use intelligent algorithms to calculate things like ‘should I convert the generated energy into hydrogen now or charge the electric car first’. This kind of integrated system does not yet exist, and it will be essential for ensuring that reliability of supply in the future can match what the conventional system currently delivers. The Netherlands is accustomed to reliability of supply in excess of 99.9%; we will need to be able to match that.”

Innovation starts within the faculties

This project is a university-wide initiative involving all faculties and disciplines. The Faculty of Applied Sciences, for example, has a wealth of knowledge about energy storage in batteries, whereas The Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment has expertise in insulating homes. Technology, Policy & Management will work out all of the costs and define where and what kind of new business models will be  required. The use of geothermal heat is an important topic of study withing Civil Engineering,. The Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science is researching solar cells and high voltage network systems, and Aerospace Engineering is studying wind turbines. Innovation starts within the faculties. The 24/7 Energy Lab is the essential interim step towards the outside world. It helps us to ensure that we can test and apply the innovative power of TU Delft in a comprehensive test environment. As such, we are innovating at a system level. This is not a ‘demo’ village, but a genuine development lab.

This is pioneering and learning what works and what does not. Our ultimate goal is to have a blueprint for the roll-out beyond our living lab.

― Prof. John Schmitz

Efficiency needs to be improved

The cost price of the initial set-up is still very high. This is why efficiency needs to be significantly improved. “When the basic system works, we can start making each component more efficient. The great thing is that, with every adaptation, you can immediately see the impact on the whole chain. The Green Village is the ideal test environment for this. Here, we can also temporarily deactivate certain parts in order to measure the effect. In a real residential area, this would of course be impossible. I have no doubt that researchers will soon be queueing up to do tests here. I’m also sure that industry will be eager to get involved.”

Will you join us?

With a donation to the Delft University Fund, you make the expansion of the 24/7 Energy Lab possible and contribute to speeding up the energy transition.

Donate here