Energy Self-Sufficient Neighborhoods in the Netherlands

Link to the Final Report

A societal scale shift towards a renewable energy production system is necessary in order to reduce dependency on limited natural resources and address climate change. While countless social, political, and economic barriers limit the development of such a system, from a technical perspective the problem of intermittency is central. Intermittency, in this case, refers to the partially predictable variability of power production due to the effects of weather, seasons, and limited daylight hours. Energy storage is the solution to this problem, and therefore essential to the widespread implementation of renewable energy production.

It is proposed that large interconnected systems such as a European Super Smart Grid offer one potential solution to intermittency, which is in effect a partial continuation of our existing large- scale centralized energy system paradigm; the opposing local, decentralized energy production systems paradigm has been gaining support in the Netherlands and beyond. In such systems, residential neighborhoods limit production of energy to within their own boundaries, and regulate supply and demand without reliance on external grid connections.

Despite this increased interest, current research has limited applicability to such a system in the Netherlands. Knowledge gaps exists because either existing research focuses on systems that are too highly idealized, and therefore unrealistic: energy demand that is too low, land intensity that is too high, very favorable climatic conditions, or an exclusion of energy storage from the system. Furthermore, current literature and practices related to energy storage and renewable energy systems, is of limited applicability to the Dutch context as energy storage capacity is bound to characteristics of the location at which the energy is produced and consumed by virtue of its dependency on wind speed, solar irradiation, and air temperature.

To address this knowledge gap, this thesis poses the primary research question, “To what degree could a self-sufficient and stable decentralized renewable energy system without a grid connection, be created today within the context of a Dutch residential neighborhood, and what form and quantity of energy storage would be required?” In addition to this main research question, sub-questions concerning the size of the intermittencies, the land required for biomass production as an alternative to energy storage, and the effect of flexible demand on the amount of energy storage are posed to better characterize the design and operation of such a system.

Local Energy in the Netherlands