Final results from the European H2020 STORM project have been released

A consortium including a research centre, small and medium enterprises, industrial companies, a university and the European District Energy Association announces the award-winning final results of the research and innovation H2020 STORM project. The STORM project has successfully developed an innovative district heating and cooling network controller based on self-learning algorithms and artificial intelligence, which was deployed and tested in two demonstration sites: one highly innovative low temperature district heating and cooling (DHC) network in the Netherlands and a more common medium-temperature district heating grid in Sweden.

During the course of 4 years, EnergyVille/VITO (BE), NODA (SE), Mijnwater (NL), Växjö Energi AB (SE), DHC+ Technology Platform c/o Euroheat & Power (BE) and ZUYD University of Applied Sciences (NL) were able to control DHC networks in a first-of-its-kind and intelligent way by using self-learning algorithms. In the STORM project a generic district heating and cooling (DHC) network controller was developed and demonstrated, with the ambition to decrease the use of fossil fuels and to increase the use of excess heat and renewable energy sources in the DHC network.

During this period the partners have developed innovative algorithms, implemented them in district heating network controllers and collected data and measurements of DHC networks to evaluate the technology’s performance. Customer engagement and no thermal comfort loss in the buildings were one of the priorities of the researchers. EnergyVille, a Belgian cooperation with KUL, VITO, UHasselt and imec has coordinated this project. 

Test results of the demo sites

The technology consists of different control strategies: peak shaving, market interaction and cell balancing. Peak heat reduction tests in the Swedish demonstration site led to a long-term peak heat reduction of 12.75% on average compared to the reference scenario without the STORM controller active. It should be noted that even during months with low heat demand reductions of up to 57% were achieved.

The Market Interaction strategy is a strategy that uses both charging and discharging capabilities to adapt to a set of electricity spot prices. Based on these prices, the STORM controller moves heat demand to match spot prices, thereby ensuring heat delivery and comfort. This strategy resulted in a 15% reduction on the electricity purchase price and an overall electricity procurement costs reduction by 6%. This option of the controller is beneficial for electric systems such as heat pumps and cogeneration units, especially when sufficient thermal buffering is provided in the system, making it possible to charge energy independently of the energy demand at times when the electricity price is most favourable.

For the cell balancing strategy in the Dutch Mijnwater system the controller was able to reduce the flow over the entire test period without jeopardising the energy delivery to customers. A peak shaving potential of 17.3% could be determined here. Furthermore, an improved capacity could be derived ranging from 37% up to 49% (median value 42.1%) which corresponds to a total of 48,200 normative Home Equivalents (nHE) that can be additionally connected to the existing system.

In each of the demo sites a CO2 emission reduction of around 11,000 ton/year was achieved, which is equivalent to the CO2 emissions of 600 flights from Barcelona to Madrid.

Market potential of the controller

Demand side management in DHC networks will become increasingly important in the coming decades, during the transition towards low(er) temperature networks. The world of digitalisation and artificial intelligence is now also entering the DHC networks. The integration of sustainable heat, such as heat from fluctuating renewable sources or excess heat from industry, can only be exploited to its full potential when district heating networks are controlled in a smart way. The versatility of the STORM controller facilitates a broader market potential by being able to address a range of different applications.

The European District heating market is currently worth about 35 Billion Euro and will grow with about 50% in the coming 10 years. The Total Addressable Market in Europe for the STORM controller, considering the probable coverage ratios for district heating networks in 2050, could increase to about M€196.4 per year.

The STORM controller technology is based on generic use cases, versatile and flexible and can be extended to other domains or technologies. Future developments of this technology are foreseen as well as wide implementation in other markets/technologies of district cooling, thermal energy storage systems, cogeneration as well as heat pumps integration and control.

This project was funded by the European Union’s H2020 Programme GA #649743.

STORM project coordinator