Testing the energy systems of the future

Published on
January 18, 2018

Europe’s first testing facility for smart energy has opened in Lelystad. Known as ACRRES Smart Grid Test site, the location allows companies to try out new solutions for sustainable energy systems. There is already huge interest in the facility from industry, research institutes and governments. While similar initiatives have been undertaken before, none have been on this scale.

The renewable energy sector is expanding, with a constantly increasing number of wind and solar energy providers. This growth results in the use of fewer fossil fuels and more sustainable energy, which is good news for the environment and climate targets. But it also puts pressure on power grids, hence the flurry of smart new power solutions to deal with this issue and streamline growth. Until recently it was not possible to test these solutions on a large scale but companies can now safeguard the future of power grids by trying them out at the Wageningen University and Research (WUR) facility in Lelystad.

The new location enables the energy solutions of the future (microgrid solutions) to be tested in practice, and allows sustainable power sources to be linked directly to energy consumers. The facility includes a solar panels, a fermentation plant, an algae pond, three wind turbines and a plant where bioethanol is made from maize. The unique thing about this setup is that all these smart applications can function separately from the main electricity grid (off-grid). In the CS Grip project frequency control is used to balance demand and supply of electricity, prevents the loss of renewable energy and prevents the network from being overloaded. Larger peak in the Smart grid are dealt with by the Battery used of this project.

The need for flexibility

Wind and solar production are not stable and controllable: there is often too much or too little. In addition, the number of providers of renewable energy is growing. There is therefore a need for flexibility to preserve the grid, and for buffers in the form of batteries (to allow excess power to be stored) and biogas (to guarantee a certain level of production when renewables run low). “It's a major challenge to come up with smart ways to make optimal use of renewable energy,” says Herman Schoorlemmer, research manager at WUR. “The strength of Wageningen University and Research lies partly in our applied research in this domain and partly in our capacity to let companies test their applications at a high-quality facility such as this one.”


A major category of smart solutions is creating energy storage. This can be done at any scale – in the form of a small neighbourhood battery, say. Another example is adapting energy demand to supply, for instance by choosing the best time to turn on a washing machine or charge an electric car, with the goal of making the grid more reliable.

One way to do this is through frequency control, a technology which allows demand (i.e. devices that consume electricity) and supply (solar/wind) to be better coordinated through the frequency in the power grid. Supply and demand are currently matched by computers communicating with each other (via ICT). The first test at the facility will be to see if ICT can be replaced by frequency control, which should make microgrids much more stable and easy to restart in the case of power outages.

Batteries based on organic materials

Energykeeper is a new research project that uses the ACRRES Smart Grid Test Facility. The objective is to test an independent redox flow battery based on organic materials. “It is a wonderful challenge to test this exceptional battery,” explains researcher Andries Visser of WUR. The battery will be delivered in five large containers to the Smart Grid facility in October 2018.