KEMA has partnered with Dutch energy research center ECN, software company Humiq, and utility Essent to create a living smart grid demonstration community. The "PowerMatchingCity," located in Hoogkerk, the Netherlands, is the first microgrid project in Europe to integrate a full-scale, operational smart residential community energy system. The community includes 25 interconnected residential homes equipped with microcogeneration units, hybrid heat pumps, PV solar panels, smart appliances and electric vehicles, and additional community-based power produced by a wind farm and a gas turbine.

The project, which officially goes live today, is the culmination of a two-year planning, implementation, and residential technology and equipment installation process. The project seeks to develop a market model for a smart grid, creating an industry reference standard to help enable wide-scale smart grid implementation. In the live phase, research into the community members’ energy use behavior will be undertaken to gain insight into the “smart” energy consumer. Data will be collected on how, how much, and when electricity is used and analyzed to explore consumer willingness to exchange comfort for flexibility based on financial incentives.

The years ahead will see enormous growth in distributed electricity generation from renewable sources such as wind energy, solar energy and biogas. Homes, neighborhoods and business parks will increasingly both generate and consume electricity. This will result in two-way or even multi-way energy traffic between homes and businesses, and between neighborhoods and energy companies. The power grids of the future also will have to accommodate large-scale wind farms and widespread use of electric transport. As a result, significant changes to the energy infrastructure are needed. Smart grids open the way for development and make use of ICT technology to ensure that energy supply and demand remain in constant balance.

For the trial in Hoogkerk, 25 homes were virtually interconnected and provided with micro-CHP systems (high-efficiency boilers), hybrid heat pumps, PV panels, smart meters, electric transport and smart household appliances. In these homes, for example, the washing machines come on only when the electricity price is at its lowest – e.g. when there is a surplus of solar energy. Together, the homes form a virtual power plant. As well as generating their own electricity, they are connected to a wind farm, so that the network integration of renewable energy can be studied. Since the supply of renewable energy does not always match the demand – because, for example, it is calm or overcast when a lot of energy is wanted, or vice versa – a coordination mechanism is used. This mechanism makes use of the PowerMatcher: an appliance that matches supply and demand.

Pier Nabuurs, KEMA’s chief executive officer: “The energy supply system of the future will be very different from what we are currently used to. The amount of our energy that comes from renewable sources will continue to increase. At the same time, there will be changes in the pattern of demand. And the energy infrastructure has to be ready for these developments. So the realization of this trial, with support from the European Union and Gasunie, is highly significant.”