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New µ-CHP network technologies for energy efficient and sustainable districts

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Energy communes

Meeting global energy demands in a sustainable way is one of the most important challenges of the 21st century. An innovative community energy management concept promises to enhance efficiency and reduce emissions with green energy technologies.


The EU-funded 'New m-CHP network technologies for energy efficient and sustainable districts' (FC-DISTRICT) project combined several technologies together with new business and service models for a next-generation energy concept today. Dynamic heat exchange between buildings is a central pillar of the concept. Micro combined heat and power (m-CHP) cogeneration systems using highly efficient and cost-effective fuel cells are employed for power generation. Fuel cells generate electricity with no combustion and almost no emissions. Small m-CHP units are located close to the site of use, reducing energy and power losses associated with long transmission and distribution lines and supporting local voltage regulation. The m-CHP systems are being field-tested at sites in Spain and Poland. Scientists have combined fuel cell technology with biomass energy generation from food waste via innovative biogas tanks for domestic use. The gas could be injected to the grid after purification. The first prototype has been demonstrated in an apartment in Milan, Italy. FC-DISTRICT developed new external thermal insulation compound systems based on vacuum insulation panels (VIPs) and phase-change material (PCM) boards to increase the thermal efficiency of buildings. VIPs, similar in concept to double-paned glass, replace the air in the sandwich layer with a vacuum that prevents conduction and convection of heat for very efficient performance. PCMs exploit thermodynamics for energy efficiency, absorbing heat during the daytime through an endothermic phase change (usually melting) and releasing it at night through the reverse reaction. The thermal insulation concepts are being tested at two sites in Greece. In addition to energy generation and improved building thermal energy management, FC-DISTRICT work has included an improved distribution system with optimised piping and district heating again exploiting VIPs. The team has also developed and installed a wireless communication system at the test site in Poland for system control and management. FC-DISTRICT technology could reduce heating/cooling consumption by up to 60 % at the district level. It is expected to have important impact on the way in which small communities produce, use and manage electricity and heat. Greater autonomy will lead to enhanced efficiency and reduced energy costs using sustainable practices.


Energy management, m-CHP, network technologies, energy efficient, fuel cells

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