The repurposing of the old Fliegerhorst airbase in Oldenburg, Germany, offers the unique chance to develop a smart city concept that can later be applied to similar communities and cities across Germany and Europe. One part of the airbase, altogether 3.9 hectares, or 9.6 acres, has been designated a living laboratory to test new energy and transportation technologies. Soon, it will likewise be home to a future-proof infrastructure. To conduct initial research, construction has begun on a mainly climate-neutral housing development. In this energy-efficient neighborhood, hydrogen will play a key role in advancing energy systems integration, or ESI, also known as sector(al) integration.
ENaQ is the first research project to merge housing development, energy supply and systems integration to provide mostly local energy resources for consumption. Plans are to build around 110 residential units and make electricity, heating and cooling, and gas part of a local multi-energy system. Besides constructing new buildings, the project will renovate houses previously used as officers’ quarters to ensure that the findings can also benefit owners of existing building stock. Overall, the neighborhood will house a cluster of energy producers and consumers, the former with the means to convert and store surplus energy or offer it to others immediately.
The housing development that the project aims to create is one of maximized efficiency and minimized energy waste, along with an increased use of nearby resources. It is to result in not only an integrated energy system, but the creation of a secure open-source platform that complies with privacy regulations and allows citizens to automate local energy trading.
In addition to technical matters, researchers will study the social and economic ties between residents. In the end, the long-term success of climate-neutral energy produced and consumed in one district or neighborhood hinges on public acceptance and on business models and public-private partnerships that directly engage the local community. One more aim of the project is to develop and evaluate the services and additional benefits that will be offered to residents and system operators.
Hydrogen as a primary energy carrier
One important part of the entire approach is the use of hydrogen as a carrier of energy, or, more specifically, the development of a specialized energy system in the form of a power-to-gas installation. This system would use electrolysis to store power in hydrogen and generate electricity from the gas via a fuel cell, a process also known as back-to-power.
The planned high-pressure storage tank will perform an essential function in this scenario, as only a demand-responsive system can provide enough options for energy-efficient neighborhoods. The portable storage unit can be filled with hydrogen at a pressure of up to 700 bars and dispense the gas for a variety of uses, such as the operation of stationary units, including emergency and home power supplies, and fuel cell vehicles, of which ENaQ will probably have bikes, cars, vans and special vehicles, as in riding lawn mowers, street cleaners and the like. Overall, this means that it is not the application that will have to get to the refueling station, but that the station will have to be moved to where it is needed.
Written by Dr. Sven Rosinger, Energy-Efficient Smart Cities, OFFIS e.V., Oldenburg, Germany, and Siegfried Suchanek, Anleg GmbH, Wesel, Germany