Renewable energy powered district heating networks (RePoDH)

Space heating accounts for around 70% of the final energy consumption in Swiss households. Therefore, as Switzerland looks towards its 2050 CO2 emission targets which require an 80% reduction in annual CO2 emissions per capita, there is a pressing need to increase the utilisation of energy efficient and renewable heating sources in the residential sector. It is claimed that district heating networks powered by local thermal energy sources like renewables (such as solar thermal energy, heat pumps, or waste heat) are considered a sustainable way to cover future heating and cooling demands in urban areas. However, existing types of district heating networks are not designed for decentralized renewable energy sources, and their integration becomes a challenging task. Existing networks are typically built in a branching configuration, whereas future renewable powered networks tend to be in ring topologies. Also, the efficiency of a thermal network is very much dependent on temperature levels of the thermal energy sources. These temperature levels can be easily controlled in networks that rely on centralized thermal energy generation sources like combined heat and power (CHP) or boiler units. However, temperature levels of non-dispatchable renewables cannot be controlled as easily as they are highly time variant. Also, the efficiency of a thermal network is strongly coupled to the supply and demand temperatures and flow rates of consumers connected to the network, and with the more frequent utilization of renewable energy sources it will become increasingly challenging to cover the temporal mismatch of demand and supply. Based on this background, a deeper knowledge is required in order to evaluate the potential of renewable energy in thermal networks. This project aims to deepen the knowledge by developing a holistic modelling framework to design and ideally operate renewable powered district heating networks (RePoDH). In this project a bi-level simulation approach is envisioned, which employs detailed dynamic modelling tools to evaluate the thermal performance and control of a network, and a simplified multi-energy modelling representation allowing to optimize the system design, for which dynamic tools are too complex, and computationally intensive. The two simulation approaches will be connected with a geographical information system, to evaluate potential network configurations using geo-referenced information. With the modelling framework we will assess how networks with a high share of renewable energy sources should be designed, in order to improve the operation of the network in terms of security and energy autarky. Moreover, we will evaluate what types of districts are suitable for RePoDH networks, and what types of networks should be used for which district in order to contribute to reaching future emission targets for our society.

For further information please contact: Kristina Orehounig

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