Energy demand is increasing while our natural resources are limited. That is why a fundamental transformation of the entire energy system is needed. Aspern Seestadt near Vienna offers an excellent research environment for this purpose. Since 2013, researchers from Siemens, together with their research partners from Wien Energie and Wiener Netze, have been working on one of the largest and most innovative energy efficiency demonstration project in Europe: Aspern Smart City Research (ASCR). The goal is to test and enhance sustainable and innovative products and solutions in the fields of energy, environment, building technology and smart grids.
CO2 emissions must be minimized if we are to reach the global, European, and national climate goals. Using energy efficiently has become a decisive competitive factor. Political objectives and the expectations of society are requiring governments and businesses to fundamentally rethink how they handle energy resources. The available resources more efficiently and investing in modern technologies that we will be able to preserve the high quality of life in our cities and reduce the negative impact that our energy system has on the climate and environment.
Austria has set the goal of having an electricity system based entirely on renewable sources by 2030. This will require the optimal interplay of smart buildings, smart users, smart grids, and information and communication technology for data collection and integration across all domains. The development of end-to-end solutions for perfectly coordinated building management will also lead to the optimized and transparent use of energy by all systems in the building. This will in turn make a key contribution to the energy transition.
Cities need to learn how to thinkIn the future, the majority of the ever-growing population will live in cities. According to current forecasts, 70 percent will live in metropolitan areas by 2050. As a result, global investment requirements for smart city infrastructure projects will continue to rise, reaching approximately $1.8 trillion annually between 2010 and 2030, according to OECD estimates. The number of people living in Vienna will continue to grow as well. The population forecast for 2030 is 2 million.
The future of energy
This unique cooperative research project focuses on future proof solutions which support the energy transition from the perspective of the involved project partners. Siemens, Wiener Netze (Distribution System Operators - DSO), Wien Energie (Retailer) and several research institutes use selected buildings and defined segments of the distribution grid in Aspern Seestadt as a „living lab“ for the development and optimization of system components supporting the project targets and the individual needs of the energy market partners. Siemens uses existing base products as platform and further develops and extends them to provide scalable solutions for existing and future stakeholders in the energy system. Target is not only a technical optimization but also the minimization of the resulting system operation and maintenance costs. This target is optimally supported through the partner setup of this project. Researchers, developers and users work together to define requirements and develop prototypes which are then tested and optimized in several sequences in a real field test environment.
In addition, the project strengthens Austria’s position as a research location, and the innovations developed there have the potential to create export opportunities. For Siemens, participation in the research company is directly related to a concrete, usable output. The insight gained will lead to the development of new applications for smart grids, smart power systems and building technology – and thus to significant technological advances.
The research focuses on networking and system intelligence, i.e. not on individual technologies or types of generation and storage (such as photovoltaics or heat pumps) per se, but on how to optimize their operation in combination with other factors. In other words, the research centers on complex interrelationships based on real data, rather than individual elements.
In the first phase of the project, which ran until the end of 2018, approximately 70 research questions were answered. A number of solutions for smart buildings and the grid infrastructure as well as 15 prototype solutions were developed. These include applications that monitor the grid status and automatically detect the grid topology as well as solutions such as the Building Energy Management System (BEMS), which optimizes the energy consumption of buildings. In addition, uniform information and communications technology concepts were created and prototyped. These support the exchange of data between the individual areas and the market participants. 30 invention disclosures, 11 of which were submitted as patent applications, and three publicly funded projects with a total volume of €11 million complete the track record of the first stage of ASCR, ASCR 1.0. In addition, experts from 17 different countries visited the ASCR Demo Center. The results generated to date show that highly complex solutions will be needed to accomplish the energy transition and to leverage efficiency potential and market potential. The prototype building systems and grid solutions that were developed and optimized in the first project phase must now be turned into economically viable solutions for residents, grid operators, building operators, and energy brokers.
Research areas of the first phaseThe researchers looked at the following parts of the energy system as domains and also examined their interactions:
The second phase of this project kicked off in 2019 and centers on the targets set by the European Union under its highly important climate strategy. Additional €45 million will be committed to research into the energy system of the future through to 2023.
Using real-time data collected in a selected part at the Aspern Seestadt multi-use development zone, innovative solutions are being created for the future generation and utilization of energy in urban areas. The second project phase focuses on communication between buildings the smart grids, the weather services, and the markets (for example in the form of energy brokers) and on the question of the smart charging of electric and hybrid cars and the potential for using these vehicles for energy storage. Further buildings will be added to the existing buildings in the test field environment, including the Seestadt Technology Center (TZ). Various start-ups and different companies research, produce and try out many new things in the Technology Center, also for Aspern Smart City Research (ASCR).
One of the selected buildings is equipped with concrete core activation (which uses the building mass for storage) and systems for the generation of heating and cooling energy. It will be possible to implement this technology with the necessary functions for a broad range of applications at a relatively low cost.
In addition to focusing on optimized energy use, selected buildings will be used to test different functions of digital building twins (BIM), e.g. “smart maintenance”, “advanced commissioning” and similar key topics.