As more and more renewable energy runs through our electricity grid, grid operators, producers and consumers increasingly need to cooperate in order to prevent overload or shortages. Within the framework of the European innovation project REnnovates, VITO studies how smart software can play a role in large-scale renovation projects.

Horizon 2020-project REnnovates

Since September 2015, VITO/EnergyVille cooperates with project partners from several European countries in the Horizon 2020 project REnnovates. Research centres, construction firms and energy suppliers study how entire neighbourhoods can be renovated in one go. Taking into account energy management, the renovated buildings are equipped with smart controls and connected to a smart grid that controls the consumption of the building based on the available energy supply. “The buildings create their own renewable energy through solar panels and generate heat with heat pumps. A smart grid, which controls the heat pumps when needed and stores surplus energy in batteries, matches supply to demand,” says Chris Caerts, project manager Smart Grid Technology at VITO/EnergyVille.

Counter at zero

REnnovates builds on the results of the Dutch construction project De Stroomversnelling. In this project, created in 2013, the Dutch government  and several construction firms and housing associations aim to renovate 111,000 social houses and turn them into zero-energy buildings. The Royal BAM Group SA is extending its engagement in that project to REnnovates. In the long run, partners VITO/ EnergyVille and the Royal BAM Group SA plan to renovate entire social housing neighbourhoods, consisting of clusters of 50 to 200 houses and connect them to a smart grid through REnnovates. First, the houses areprovided with a new - better insulated - building envelope (insulation layer between the inner and outer parts of the house) to reduce energy consumption. Next, they are disconnected from the gas pipeline and a heat pump, fed by the solar panels on the roof, is installed. This turns the buildings into zero-energy buildings: Yearly consumption equals their own, green energy production.

“The REnnovates project will also be deployed in Spain and Poland, but through the support of VITO/ EnergyVille we can play a leading role in the Netherlands. With VITO/ EnergyVille and BAM Belgium we also aim to study the potential of smart grid technology for the Belgian market.”

Maarten Hommelberg
Project Manager Innovatie BAM Advies & Engineering

Smart buildings and neighbourhoods

For VITO/EnergyVille, which develops software to control buildings and smart grids, the impact of the network is an essential element of zero-energy construction. “First, we model the energy demand to the buildings, not only in terms of the building characteristics, but also by taking into account the habits of the inhabitants,” says Chris Caerts. “Next, we study how to best use the flexibility of energy demand to support the smart grid along with Dutch grid  operator Stedin, create actual business cases and develop an optimisation system. By continuously fine-tuning the smart grid for an increasing and diverse number of buildings, inhabitants will be able to live in inexpensive and zero-energy buildings.”  In the Netherlands, De Stroomversnelling has already renovated 70 buildings and turned them into zero-energy homes. Using this test group - which may be expanded - VITO/EnergyVille aims to create a base template for control software in the next yearand- a-half. This template will become smarter and smarter when new energy data is added.

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