KEMA, Arnhem, The Netherlands, has partnered with energy research center ECN, Petten, The Netherlands, advanced software company Humiq, Copenhagen, Denmark, and utility Essent, Arnhem, The Netherlands, to create a living smart grid demonstration community.

The PowerMatching City, located in Hoogkerk, The Netherlands, is the first microgrid project in Europe to integrate a full-scale, operational smart residential community energy system. The community includes 25 interconnected residential homes equipped with micro-cogeneration units, hybrid heat pumps, photovoltaic (PV) solar panels, smart appliances and electric vehicles, and additional community-based power produced by a wind farm and a gas turbine.

The project, which officially went live March 10, is the culmination of a two-year planning, implementation, and residential technology and equipment installation process.

The project seeks to develop a market model for a smart grid, creating an industry reference standard to help enable wide-scale smart grid implementation.

In the live phase, research into the community members' energy use behavior will be undertaken to gain insight into the smart energy consumer. Data will be collected on how, how much and when electricity is used and analyzed to explore consumer willingness to exchange comfort for flexibility based on financial incentives.

The years ahead will see enormous growth in distributed electricity generation from renewable sources such as wind energy, solar energy and biogas. Homes, neighborhoods, and business parks will increasingly both generate and consume electricity.

This will result in two-way or even multi-way energy traffic between homes and businesses and between neighborhoods and energy companies. The power grids of the future also will have to accommodate large-scale wind farms and widespread use of electric transport. As a result, significant changes to the energy infrastructure are needed. Smart grids open the way for development and make use of ICT technology to ensure that energy supply and demand remain in constant balance.

For the trial in Hoogkerk, 25 homes were virtually interconnected and provided with micro-CHP systems (high-efficiency boilers), hybrid heat pumps, PV panels, smart meters, electric transport, and smart household appliances.

In these homes, for example, the washing machines come on only when the electricity price is at its lowest – e.g. when there is a surplus of solar energy. Together, the homes form a virtual power plant. As well as generating their own electricity, they are connected to a wind farm, so that the network integration of renewable energy can be studied.