The FlexSys project is preparing for the practical testing of flexibility at household level. We are currently installing COFY-boxes that will make it possible to control different kinds of assets and use them as a flexible consumer. In this article, Nicolas Van Damme explains the composition of the site and the tests that will be performed.
Nicolas Van Damme is project manager at Energent – a cooperative founded in 2013 in Ghent and active in the fields of renewable energy projects, energy efficiency and energy services. Nicolas coordinates the FlexSys pilot site and organises the deployment of the COFY-boxes and other pieces of hardware in the houses of the participating end-users.
The FlexSys project is focusing on the possibility of flexibility on the end-user level, therefore a testing site is organised. How does the FlexSys pilot site looks like?
The FlexSys pilot site consists of 50 households with different types of assets. Each participant has solar panels on the roof in combination with a specific asset. We will mainly focus on battery systems and (hybrid) heat pumps, but also electric vehicles and immersion heaters for domestic hot water will be tested. Most of the homes are located in Ghent and the surrounding area and are typically single-family houses.
What are the specific tools that are being tested and what are they aimed for?
We mainly focus on the integration of different types of assets in the COFY-box environment. To make this possible, a variety of tools were needed. Some of them were simply available on the existing market, but some tools have been developed by the technical team behind the COFY-box, in which some of the partners in this project (EnergieID, University of Ghent, …) contributed. With these tools it is possible to monitor the (general) consumption of the household and the injection, the production of solar energy. In addition and even more interesting for the FlexSys project, it will be possible to control assets, such as a heat pump, and adjust the household consumption, depending on the situation on the electricity market. If these different households can be aggregated, there will be enough power to use as ancillary services.
Which type of test-users were selected?
Within the test site we focussed on battery-systems and heat pumps in combination with solar power, because of their possibility to be controlled and their power-use. These are the two most important criteria in testing the possibility for flexibility in small households: having enough power to work with and be able to control this power in a logic and safe way.
How much commitment does the testing require from a test-user?
First, the different hard- and software has to be installed in the people’s houses. Together with this installation, we will teach the participants how the system works and how they can monitor their own data. Specific tests will be organised in their houses and of course we will ask for feedback, because the willingness and the motivation of the end-user will be the key role in this project. Logically, in the end it is the goal that the end-users do not notice too much of the flexibility-testing, but in some case it could have an impact on their daily life.
Once the testing and demonstration phase is completed, what will happen with the results?
The final goal of this project is to propose a model to bring residential flexibility to the market and make it economical interesting for all of the stakeholder: end-users, suppliers and the community. The results of the FlexSys pilot site will show if this aggregation is technical feasible and how the participating end-users have experienced the different interventions. Together with the result of the surveys we will conduct together with Ecopower and the University of Ghent for the FlexSys project, we can extrapolate this to the community and conclude if there is a support base from the citizens.
What is the main added value of participation in this project for citizen energy cooperatives?
As an energy cooperative, we can learn a lot by participating in projects like these. It’s interesting to know if we, as cooperative, can play a role in the selection, motivation and aggregation of participants in flexibility projects. And by doing so helping the energy transition. FlexSys aims to develop advanced technology solutions and motivate end-users in the energy transition. I strongly believe that the connection with the local cooperative members is an important aspect. It makes it easier to carry out such tests in the field and to get direct feedback from the participants. The cooperatives have a good understanding of what is going on at the local level, which is interesting to take into account in these projects.