In late November, the pan-European REFORMERS research project, funded for five years under the EU’s Horizon Europe program, was officially kicked-off in Bruxelles. The project focuses on the development, realization and roll-out of the "Renewable Energy Valleys" (REVs) - resilient regional multi-energy systems that aim to increase energy security while accelerating the green transition in Europe. Empa is a partner of the multinational consortium.
Europe’s first Renewable Energy Valley is located in the Netherlands, between Alkmaar and Heiloo. It consists of a business park, residential areas, an industrial zone and rural areas. It also harbors an existing natural gas infrastructure, a bio-energy plant, and the Energy Innovation Park Alkmaar to foster renewable energy innovations. This "Flagship Valley", where renewable energy is produced and consumed locally by citizens and light industries, has a number of goals within the REFORMERS project; it aims at demonstrating renewable energy technologies, converting, storing and distributing renewable energy carriers (such as biomethane, electricity, hydrogen and heat) as well as monitoring, optimizing and controlling the energy flows, among others.
The developments within the Flagship Valley will be meticulously followed by six satellite valleys spread across Europe. These valleys will use the lessons learned from Alkmaar and replicate successful strategies to create their own Renewable Energy Valley. Finally, REFORMERS will develop a toolbox and a digital twin to identify the best solutions.
The kick-off meeting was organized and hosted by the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, who coordinates the project, and the New Energy Coalition, Flagship Valley Coordinator, in Alkmaar. The Alderman of the Municipality of Alkmaar, also an active Partner of the Consortium, welcomed the representatives of the 28 partner institutions from 10 countries (AIT, Duurzaam Heiloo, CERTH, CIRCE, KONIN-MIASTO, DDS, EUREC, NAPE, RISE, TNO, Deep Blue, Municipality of Andorra, TU Delft, Municipality of Kozani, Municipality of Murau, Alliander N.V., Municipality of Alkmaar, HVC, Hynoca Alkmaar, InVesta, Sustenso Boekelermeer, Repowered, Withthegrid, NXT MOBILITY, STOFF2 GmbH and Empa).
Researchers at Empa’s Urban Energy Systems lab, led by Philipp Heer, will contribute to developing digital twins for the Energy Valleys. These digital twins will establish a real-time data connection between the physical energy systems and their virtual counterparts to enhance operational analysis, detailed energy forecasting and local grid management. The expertise of Heer’s team in energy system modelling and data model development will contribute to a digital twin blueprint that will broaden application beyond the flagship sites. This blueprint will incorporate an energy data space to facilitate interoperability and stakeholder collaboration.
’Renewable Energy Valleys’ to accelerate the energy transition