• A team of Fraunhofer ITWM and partners have developed an energy management system to enable energy autonomy
  • These modular systems use solar PV, batteries, heat pumps to generate and store energy produced, relying very little on on-grid power
  • Such systems can either power individual households completely or can work as a community energy hub for the entire neighborhood
  • In a pilot, they have deployed these systems for 30 waterborne homes in Amsterdam using a single shared power line from the grid operator to be used as a back up on cloudy days
  • Electricity produced can be rerouted to homes that need more energy than others at any given point in time
  • The modular system can also forecast electricity to be produced by the solar PV array and heat pumps, and how much would need to be stored

The Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics (ITWM) along with partners has developed an energy management system connecting solar PV systems, batteries, heat pumps and electric cars that enables powering individual households or ‘entire neighborhoods’ with locally produced renewable energy. The research team put this system together for 30 waterborne homes in Amsterdam using a single shared power line laid by the grid operator that serves as a backup to furnish remote power when the sky is cloudy. It serves to address the intermittent nature of renewable energy, they say.

This system works in a way so as to ensure these homes use as little on-grid electricity as possible relying instead on their own solar, battery and heat pump generated electricity giving the residents autonomy over their energy use and management. Collectively, this works as a communal energy hub since the system figures out where the electricity requirement is not much and then reroute the available power to where it is needed that time within these 30 homes.

The team developed this modular system called Amperix and used it as part of the ERA Net Smart Grids project naming it Grid Friends. A Fraunhofer ITWM spin-off—Wendeware AG has been selling the system since early 2019.

The module system comes with a forecasting model that can determine how much electricity the PV system will produce and how much heat is likely to be consumed basis which storage is regulated.

“For example, the PV systems run at less than full capacity when the morning sky is hazy. If the weather is expected to clear up by the afternoon so that the systems’ output would have to be throttled, the energy management system will not start storing power in the morning, instead holding off until later to charge batteries,” explains Fraunhofer. “The batteries will still be fully charged by evening, but without any solar power going to waste.”

This electricity can also charge electric cars allowing residents to figure out how much power their cars need for how much distance through an app, and accordingly use only that much power to charge their vehicles. It helps bring down electricity bills and the load for the public grid.

Project Manager Matthias Klein said these modules can be customized to individual preference. “There is already a permanently installed base of 60 to 70 of our systems ranging from private households and cafeterias to entire businesses and one sewage treatment plant. While the Amsterdam system shifts peak power outputs of up to 250 kW, the industry versions in place so far control 150 kW,” he said.