StadA sustainable future energy system requires thermal networks. In contrast to centrally controlled heating installations, thermal networks provide heating or cooling for low-energy buildings using low-temperature heat sources. Residual heat from industrial processes or from geothermal sources can be perfectly integrated into the network, resulting in less heat loss, greater efficiency, and a greater share of renewable and residual energy sources. EnergyVille works on 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 heating networks.

Thermal
Erik De Schutter

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Erik De Schutter

Business Developer Thermal Energy Systems at EnergyVille/VITO
Johan Desmedt

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Johan Desmedt

Project Manager Energy Technology at EnergyVille/VITO

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.).

Network design

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.