Logistics companies can share sustainable energy through smart microgrids

02/05/2022 — minutes reading time
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By using smart microgrid technology, companies can make their energy consumption significantly more sustainable. This technology enables neighbouring businesses at logistics sites and industrial parks to coordinate their electricity production, consumption and storage. At the Waasland Logistics Park in Verrebroek, VIL demonstrates how the technology is applied in practice.

Two years ago, Flemish clusters VIL (logistics) and Flux50 (smart energy) launched the ‘Logigrid’ project. The goal was to investigate how ‘smart microgrids’ can contribute to the electrification of the Flemish logistics sector and its transition to renewable energy. The results will be revealed at a public event on 16 June.

“A microgrid is a system that coordinates local production of sustainable energy by companies with the consumption of that energy by neighbouring businesses,” explains Eric Verlinden, VIL Research Manager. “The production of green electricity using solar panels and wind turbines fluctuates, but the same is true of consumption. For example, there could be a shortage of power at night, while in the weekend, when a company isn’t working, there’s a surplus. Bringing companies together means they can share that energy and better match their production to their consumption. Together, they can maximise their grid independence and optimise their investments.”

“Logistics companies have warehouses with huge roofs where they can install solar panels,” Verlinden continues. “But their activities consume relatively little energy. For manufacturing companies, it’s usually the opposite. By coming together, they can share that energy with each other. The microgrid in these renewable energy communities is managed digitally through a cloud-based IT system, in which a company automatically funnels its energy surplus to a company with a shortage.” The electricity grid is used as a buffer, which incidentally allows companies to gain the best advantage from market price fluctuations.

Practice test at the Waasland Logistics Park

In the Logigrid project, VIL and Flux50 investigated the possibilities of smart microgrid technology for logistics companies in Flanders and identified its potential. They tested the use of smart grid technology in practice at the Waasland Logistics Park in Verrebroek. The findings from the trial project were positive. Other logistics companies and sites can now follow in their footsteps.

Two challenges

“There were two main challenges,” says Verlinden. “The first was the collaboration aspect: companies had to be prepared to take the necessary steps in relation to the legal aspects, sharing their data, governance, business models, etc. The site manager has a facilitating role to play here. And the more companies in a park want to collaborate, the more difficult it becomes to fit the pieces of the puzzle together. The site manager can play an active role here, too.”

The second challenge was more legal in nature. At the moment, the possibilities for sharing renewable energy between companies through the public grid are limited. “The Flemish decree that regulates sharing only covers citizens and small and medium-sized enterprises,” explains Frederik Loeckx, Managing Director of Flux50. “Large enterprises can only exchange electricity between their own branches, even if they’re not in the same industrial park, but not with other companies in the park. For that, they need a supplier’s permit, which obviously limits their options. So we’re hoping that a project like Logigrid will open the eyes of the public authorities concerned.”

“Companies can already respond to current technology and take advantage of the possibilities offered by the energy market,” says Verlinden. “For example, they can engage in energy optimisation on their own or through partnerships. Those possibilities were comprehensively investigated in the project and are set out in a report that will be provided to interested companies in the sector.”

VIL and Flux50 will be presenting the findings from the Logigrid project at a final event on 16 June at the Lamot conference centre in Mechelen. If you’re interested, you can register at vil.be/events/