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Building-specific Energy Production Receives a Boost


VTT the Technical Research Centre of Finland builds a test apartment electrified by solar and wind energy

Building-specific energy production solutions are becoming common in the near future. This allows the possessor of real estate to decide whether to use the energy production for transportation in addition to living, or sell it to the electricity distribution network. VTT has built an energy self-sufficient test apartment in Oulu for the research and development of building-specific energy production. The research environment, connected to the electricity distribution network, produces the energy required for living and motoring with its own solar and wind power.

The roof of VTT’s research environment holds a 5.5 kilowatt wind power plant and around 20 square metres of solar cells generating 4 kilowatts. Together, they produce enough electricity for living and running an electric car. The test apartment is used as accommodation for visiting scientists, and it is located in connection with VTT’s offices in Linnanmaa, Oulu.

An attempt is made to fight the climate change by curbing carbon dioxide emissions. Finland, too, has committed itself to reducing emissions in both energy production and transportation, and will increase the amount of electricity produced with nuclear power and support the utilisation of renewable energy sources. Local, distributed energy production is also one of the means that can be used to improve the production reliability, for example in preparation for long power outages. VTT’s test apartment can be lived in for around two days with no external energy.

Sustainable development requires reducing the use of fossil fuels. “It would be a major step into this direction for Finland, if we were to start using electric cars powered by renewable energy sources for private transportation in urban traffic. Intelligent energy solutions would also promote change in consumer habits towards lower energy consumption and costs”, says Jussi Paakkari, Vice President, R&D, ICT at VTT.

“We are talking about a complete solution including a renewable energy production unit, a wind power plant, solar panels, electric car, electricity storages and an ecological apartment, graphical displays and a database solution allowing one to monitor the electricity consumption”, recounts Klaus Känsälä, Senior Research Scientist at VTT.

The apartment is equipped with normal, energy-saving household appliances and other equipment. Lighting is optimised, based on a low-voltage network using 24 VDC voltage. The resident can affect the energy consumption through his or her choices.

VTT is collecting data of the apartment’s consumption and production and the choices made by the residents in its database. Consumption data is stored in the database at one-minute intervals. VTT’s research scientists utilise the data in designing future forms of living and sizing the new systems. The test apartment helps VTT to study what are the benefits of energy self-sufficient living for the consumer.

In the future, the consumer will monitor and control the electricity consumption of his or her living and transportation, and can even sell electricity to the electricity distribution company . This is made possible by the development work on intelligent electricity networks, improving the efficiency, flexibility and dynamism of old-fashioned electricity distribution systems.

In the future, the energy market will be more flexible, and the price of energy will vary according to the availability of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power. Building an intelligent electricity network requires developments in equipment and the networking of various equipment systems with the help of information and communication technologies.

VTT is using the energy self-sufficient apartment to study, for example, how much the resident can reduce the energy consumption peaks and how much the energy consumed by living can be reduced.

In the future, local power plants could be located in, for example, office buildings, commercial buildings and residential buildings.