Utrecht Smart Solar Charging project
The city of Utrecht has capitalised on the high take-up by residents of electric cars and solar panels to develop the Smart Solar Charging project.
To help meet its ambitious climate control and clean energy goals, the city of Utrecht in the Netherlands has encouraged residents to convert to photovoltaic energy (PV) and electric vehicles (EV). To facilitate the transition, the Smart Solar Charging project was launched to resolve significant issues around energy yield, storage and cost, as well as, how to prevent fluctuations in PV power supply and grid stress and to address the problem of peaks in e-charging, which can lead to power shortages and cars going nowhere.
The Smart Solar Charging project uses Vehicle2Grid technology. This quick load and storage system allows solar energy produced by cars to be stored in them and released back to the grid at a later time, based on demand. This creates flexible storage capacity that reduces peak loads on the power grid. As a result, the project enables residents to self-generate and self-store energy for optimal use and clean driving.
Originally published by EUROCITIES, the network of 130 European cities - PDF: http://nws.eurocities.eu/MediaShell/media/2016AwardsCitiesinactionUtrecht.pdf
Background and objectives
The Smart Solar Charging project builds on results from the city of Utrecht’s pilot project ‘Smart Grid: profit for all‘ (2012-2014) that took place in two medium-sized smart grids of one hundred households each, in Amersfoort and Utrecht. A series of “scalable and user-driven services related to power grids of the future” were tested and evaluated with support of the local community.
Currently, the city of Utrecht generates more photovoltaic (PV) energy than any other city in the Netherlands, with solar panels installed on one in 20 homes. It also promotes electric vehicles (EV) and has 4,000 e-cars and 893 charging stations located on city streets.
The objectives of the project are to promote environmental sustainability, low carbon economy and social sustainability.
The city of Utrecht collaborated with LomboXnet, a local solar, internet and electric car-sharing scheme company who participated in the Smart Grid pilot. LomboXnet identified that grid flexibility and self-consumption of generated renewable energy were prerequisites for progress in sustainable energy production, storage and usage. Households in Utrecht were producing more solar power than they needed and advances in electric car batteries meant they could store enough energy to power a car for 500km or a home for two weeks. LomboXnet developed a solution using electric car batteries to store surplus energy from rooftop solar panels which could then be used by the cars (and could be shared), with excess energy delivered direct for use in the home on less sunny days or back to the electricity grid.
LomboXnet further developed the original concept, by proposing to combine smart solar charging with smart energy management to create a new kind of neighbourhood energy system. A system that allows optimal use of solar power, enables and encourages e-car use and also guarantees electricity supply through connection with the grid. Their proposal resulted in a financial investment totalling €3m in a Living Lab for the Smart Solar Charging project from a consortium of investors including the city of Utrecht, LomboXnet, grid operator Stedin, the Utrech province goverment, the University of Utrecht, SMEs and international companies including GE, Nissan and Renault.
The consortium’s first task was to create the world’s first smart solar charging station where surplus solar energy could be charged in vehicle-to-grid/home car batteries during the day and discharged at night. Twenty of the resulting innovative bi-directional charging stations were installed as part of a demonstrator project in the district of Lombok in 2015. Residents use a simple app to say how much of the energy in their e-car batteries they plan to use, so the system knows how much to charge batteries and how much energy to take out and give back as electricity to homes. The project is predicted to grow to involve at least 200 shared e-cars, providing enough energy to power a neighbourhood of 2,000 households.
Financing and resources
The Lead agencies for the project are the city of Utrecht and LomboXnet.
The project is supported by a grant from the European Regional Development Fund (ERFD) – OP West II. OP West is the partnership of the four Randstad provinces (North and South Holland, Utrecht and Flevoland) and the four major Dutch cities Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam and Utrecht. Together, they have created a program to provide an innovative impulse to the regional economy in the Randstad region by giving grants to businesses in the region.
Results and impacts
The Smart Solar Charging consortium is now partnering with 14 neighbouring cities to implement the concept province-wide.
An agreement with car manufacturer Renault will add 150 electric Renault ZOEs to Utrecht’s car sharing programme and develop vehicle-to-grid technology for Renault cars.
The consortium also plans to work with national energy regulators and grid operators to develop energy standards that can be deployed in Europe and internationally.
Many organisations world-wide, from those with ambitious environmental targets to those without electricity grids, have expressed interest in smart solar charging, seeing it as an energy system of the future.
Barriers and challenges
National government regulations and taxes currently counter-productive to the fast upscaling of smart solar charging provided challenges for the project partners.
Lessons learned and transferability
The project’s overall success owes much to the enthusiastic support of the citizens of Utrecht as well as grid operators, charging infrastructure specialists and car makers who are committed to be at the forefront of sustainable innovation. While residents have a natural interest in improving local air quality and reducing their energy bills, the consortium ensured the concept was understood and residents could be involved by working closely with communities in schools, neighbourhoods and business parks. The full support of the city government was a crucial factor in the project’s success and long-term viability. The city has provided a stage to showcase a concept it believes will help future proof the city’s energy security without the wholesale replacement of cables.
The Utrecht district of Lombok is internationally known as the Smart Solar Charging pilot area. The experiences in Lombok will be further developed and tested over the next four years in five linked pilot areas in the Utrecht region (Lombok, Houten, Utrecht Science Park: De Uithof, Utrecht Central Station area, Driebergen-Zeist). Each pilot area has its own user profile, type of customer and specific market. All areas combine the production of renewable energy with Vehicle2Grid-charging points and car sharing systems. (source: Smart Solar Charging Project)
Cities in action - Utrecht pioneers smart solar charging - EUROCITIES, November 2016