EnergyVille investigates the development, operation and use of electrical and thermal networks. We focus on a seamless integration of renewable energy sources, both into distribution and transmission systems and into the built environment. EnergyVille envisages the development, demonstration and implementation of intelligent control of networks and substations, tools for designing DHC networks, low temperature networks, multi-carrier energy networks and district cooling networks.
High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) has become a key technology in the energy transition. The technology offers new perspectives for cross-border infrastructure investments and at the same time, it is the only technically feasible solution for connecting remote offshore wind farms. In the coming decades, meshed HVDC grids will enable even higher levels of renewable energy integration by unlocking the full potential of the technology. EnergyVille’s activities to move towards HVDC grids are centered on control and protection of such systems, as well as on planning aspects.
Interoperability and decision support for grid operators
Transmission and distribution system operation and planning is becoming ever more complex, due to uncertainty caused by renewables and new sources of flexibility provided by demand side management, storage and flexible grid elements. Currently, system planners and operators have to process large amounts of information and make decisions in a short span of time, resulting in suboptimal utilization of equipment or over-investment in system planning. With the research on decision support tools for grid operators, EnergyVille provides new computational methods and tools, helping the grid operator to take decisions proactively and to allow optimal integration of all service providers in the market, making use of various optimization techniques.
Device interoperability testing using Hardware-in-the-loop
The energy transition has resulted in a fundamental change in the behavior of the power system, with increasing renewables, new organizational structures and faster interactions. This has led to smarter electric grids, the development of new devices and new interactions in the grid. In order to ensure a reliable operation of the power system, new test procedures are necessary. The EnergyVille team performs hardware tests on power system equipment, coupled to the real-time computer to perform hardware-in-the-loop tests, testing device interoperability under realistic test conditions.
Dirk van Hertem
Smart DHC controller
EnergyVille works on technologies tackling the energy efficiency of district heating networks. We have developed a smart DHC controller based on self-learning algorithms that enables to maximize the use of waste heat and renewable energy sources in DHC networks. The controller optimizes the consumption of the buildings and districts and the demand of the network and optimally uses the potential of activating the building thermal mass as thermal energy storage system. The technology also controls the supply and consumption side (‘demand side management’) of district heating networks and the different components of the energy system (such as storage units, heat pumps, etc.).
A thermal network is an energy concept capable of transporting thermal energy from a producer to a consumer. That energy can be delivered as heat (district heating) or cold (district cooling). Within EnergyVille we work on the optimal design of 4th generation networks. Where traditional heating networks operate at typical temperatures at 90/70°C, the 4th generation thermal network can operate on supply temperature of 50°C and lower from single or multiple sources. This makes it feasible to limit the primary energy consumption for heating and cooling due to reduced thermal energy losses throughout the grid, maximised use of residual heat and the integration of renewable energy sources (e.g. solar or geothermal).
Fault detection and management
Substations in thermal grids make the connection between the grid and the buildings or installations connected to it. Traditionally, they are built with one or more heat exchangers, some piping and valves to regulate the flow and pressures, and a control framework combined with (limited) sensor equipment. Any flaw or fault in these substations results in an increased return temperature of the grid, which is extremely detrimental for low temperature operation and energy efficiency. These flaws and faults occur more than often in practice; studies have shown that up to 75% of all installed substations exhibit some kind of faulty behaviour.
To rapidly identify these faults or flaws, EnergyVille has developed automated methods. Adding this intelligence to substation and/or network controllers allows easy and remote detection of inefficiencies in the system, which on their turn reduces the costs for maintenance (more focused and preventive) and operation costs (fast reaction) for both service companies and network operators. In addition, EnergyVille works on methods to lower the return temperature of heating networks significantly in order to increase the efficiency of the energy systems.