Energy: Vienna laboratory prepares city of the future

An ‘open-air’ laboratory for smart city specialists created in 2013 is hidden away within a recently-built neighbourhood a few kilometres to the east of Austria’s capital. Aspern Smart City Research (ASCR) is a project aiming to improve energy efficiency in cities and reduce CO2 emissions from cities. A joint venture between Siemens and the City of Vienna’s energy and network management companies, the experiment is working initially with three buildings in the new district: a residential building, a school campus and a university student home, which are all equipped with solar panels, heat pumps and energy storage systems.

Optimise “renewable energy in the urban environment”

“We are trying to find solutions to optimise renewable energy use in the urban environment,” explains Georg Pammer, General Manager of ASCR, which seeks to optimise both a building’s own consumption of energy, and its participation in the energy network and market. The three buildings – although cut off from the district heating network – are connected to the electricity grid and are able to re-inject their own energy production into the network.

Households from around 50% of the building’s 212 apartments volunteered to share their energy consumption data, which were analysed by researchers.©wien3420_Amelie Chapalain

Researchers are seeking to automatically determine when a building should store its energy production internally and when it should resell it onto the grid. To enable this, the laboratory is using weather forecast data, expected household electricity consumption and market electricity prices. Researchers are gathering around 1.5 million pieces of data every day from the homes of residents participating voluntarily in the project (half of the 212 residences in the building).

Energy consumption reduced by 20 to 25%

Meters installed in the electricity network also provide information on the state of the network itself, with a particular focus on determining potential overloads – a key piece of information once buildings of the future begin injecting their own production into the network on a large scale. “The question is knowing how to automate the fact that the network and the building speak to each other,” explains Georg Pammer. The research is also proving helpful to the municipality as it provides smart meters to homes across Vienna and has also given rise to other ancillary but very instructive observations. “Households participating in the project have reduced their energy consumption by 20 to 25% compared with non-participating households in the building”, the ASCR General Manager continues, adding that households who volunteer to share their data can follow their consumption in real-time via a special app

An 83 million euros project

Georg Pammer highlights that: “the simple fact of actively viewing one’s energy consumption and receiving constant information creates a heightened sense of responsibility,” and recalls that the project’s objective was not to reduce household energy consumption but rather CO2 emissions. The project, originally costing 38.5 million euros, has been extended through to 2023 with additional funding of 45 million euros. Researchers are seeking to examine new use cases and give particular focus to the consequences of recharging electric cars for both the building and the network.

The student home, one of the three building currently taking part in the project, is equipped with solar panels and cut off from the district heating network. ©ASCR_Walter Schaub-Walzer

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