Something rather revolutionary is going on in a family housing complex in Karlsruhe in western Germany. The Smart District Durlach project will bring together a number of renewable technologies including photovoltaic (PV) roof panels, heat pumps and natural gas cogeneration (CHP) units within an AI-based intelligent control system. The project, which is undertaken by the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE) as part of the LowEx Stock Analysis framework, aims to reduce primary energy consumption and carbon emissions by a whopping 50 percent.
A mix of renewable energy systems will be employed across five multi-storey buildings (containing 160 households) built in the 1960s, which currently get their gas and electricity from the grid. All the buildings will be fitted with rooftop PV modules. Three of them will have heat and electricity supplied from two CHP units, optimised so that as little electricity is taken from the grid as possible. Two buildings will use novel heat pump systems: one will use a combination of heat sources (outside air and ground source probes); the other will derive its heat from photovoltaic-thermal (PVT) collectors.
All the systems will be connected, so that the heat pumps are ideally operated with electricity from the PV modules or the CHP units, to minimise consumption from the grid. A smart energy management system (EMS) is being developed for the project which will use predictive control modelling.
The novel energy concept will be implemented within 2020, then subjected to monitoring and evaluation over the next two years. If successful, it could be used as a blueprint for community housing in other districts. The project, which involves four other local partners, has been funded by the Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy as part of a drive to make buildings as carbon-neutral as possible.