“ORIGIN is developing a sophisticated intelligent ICT (Information and Communication Technology) system for the management of energy in a community.” (www.origin-energy.eu). The name stands for Orchestration of Renewable Integrated Generation In Neighborhoods, a visionary project with the goal to achieve a more efficient use of the installed renewable energy generation and storage to reduce the amount of “imported energy”, from the public grid, often produced with non-sustainable means. Beatriz Silva reports.
The EU-funded project “is a collaboration of eight organizations from five different European Union member states. The developed solutions are from now on being validated in three ecovillages in three different climatic settings in northern Scotland – Findhorn, southern Portugal – Tamera and the Italian alpine foothills – Damanhur.”
Representatives of the research group of ORIGIN meet regularly in the different places to share. In December, Dr. Andrew Peacock, Eng. Andrew Spence, both from Heriot Watt University Edinburgh, David Todoli, ITI Valencia, and André Oliviera, ITI Coimbra, were in Tamera / Portugal, one of the test users of Origin, to present ORIGIN and launch the user interfaces, also informing about the development of the system in March when they met in Damanhur.
The main questions are: Where can we save energy? And, how to steer energy use in such a way that priority is given to locally produced sustainable energy when and where ever possible?
ORIGIN research revealed some interesting background information: Portugal has a huge potential of renewable yet centrally generated energy as the big hydro-electric power plants produce most of the energy consumed in winter. To date the country produces and feeds hardly any solar energy into the public grid, however, although Portugal has the longest sunshine duration of Europe. Subsequently, in summer almost all electricity comes from coal, gas and imported Spanish production.
For Tamera, the ORIGIN measuring device disclosed the following picture: although the community needs more energy than it produces, it does not use all the solar energy it could generate, and there is a point where the production needs to be stopped, because the batteries are full and not all available energy can be used at the time of production. Remedy shall be provided: ORIGIN gadgets enable the consumers to optimize their energy use. The outstandingly precise weather forecast for the coming eighteen hours – “we are better than the National Forecast” said Dr. Andrew in a playful, yet proud, voice – allows an accurate forecast of energy production. Users can inform themselves when is the best time to do laundry, use the food dryer, charge the electric cars etc. They can use the dashboard to learn how much energy is being generated locally and how much is imported. One can know how much energy is coming from the grid and how much is taken from the sun. People can also know which building is producing or using most of the energy supply and chose the more “complicity-free time” for energy consuming chores.
Simultaneously ORIGN makes it clear: the battery charging software needs to be adapted so that they no longer replenish with whatever available energy; priority must be given to the locally produced energy when charging the community energy storage system. A challenging task for the programmer.
“ORIGIN’s control system will orchestrate energy demand within a community with the aim of better aligning it to local renewable generation” (www.origin-energy.eu). ORIGIN optimization of Tamera’s energy is based on minimizing the curtailment, thus maximizing efficiency as well as battery-life and enabling intelligent consumption behavior.
In cooperation with the three communities the program started in November 2012 and will continue until November 2015.
“How can we leave knowing that you have a system you will use?” With his question Dr. Andrew added to the fact that the ORIGIN system is an “Awareness Tool”, because in the end “it is about the change in the consciousness of people”.