Electric cars are so popular in the Netherlands that it would not be uncommon, say, for a
Tesla to roll up as a taxi outside Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. Though charging stations are not yet ubiquitous, it is not difficult to find them in Dutch communities, parking lots, and along the streets.
To reduce carbon emissions, national and local governments are taking various approaches—and, thus, electric cars, solar home systems, and energy-efficient solutions for buildings are booming in Europe. Cities like Amsterdam are front and center of this transformation. For instance,, making it an ideal venue for a Smart Cities Tour earlier this year, where a group of 26 representatives, including national and municipal officials and World Bank project teams, to learn from the Netherlands’ successful experience in energy sector transformation.
During a site visit to energy network company Alliander, we saw the pilot of a neighborhood battery system (NBS) in Rijsenhout, a town in the Western Netherlands near Amsterdam. The NBS is a local, community-level energy storage system that employs one large battery to stabilize neighborhood power distribution grids, particularly during peak hours. With a significant and increasing number of electric vehicle charging stations and solar panels installed in communities, electric networks are under increasing pressure to handle the variation between solar power during the day and concentrated peak electricity demand in the evenings and nights. Maintaining stable power supply and enhancing the resilience of the electricity grid to spikes in demand are fast becoming real challenges for these communities. While overhauling the power grids to prepare for these challenges could be costly and time-consuming, these small-scale NBS provide a low-cost, smart alternative solution.
So how does this work, exactly?
The pilot installation in Rijsenhout takes up less than 200 square feet, and has a 128kWh-capacity battery system that connects rooftop solar panels in 35 households and serves as a temporary power storage unit. It stores surplus solar electricity during the day and releases it as needed during peak hours. It also avoids an investment of €25,000 in grid reinforcement and stabilizes grid power by up to 20V. From a broader perspective, the system contributes to energy conservation and carbon mitigation by maximizing the use of solar power.
While a rapid improvement of this system is inevitable with technological advancements, there are still some immediate factors that are critical for the model to be scaled up successfully. The first is collaboration among residents of such pilot communities. Second, setting clear objectives during the piloting phase would grant such a project a practical timeline buffer, since it could take months to demonstrate the financial feasibility of smart energy applications, particularly on a larger scale.
Building on this pilot project, Alliander will evaluate the results before taking the next steps. A successful NBS has the potential to be replicated in nearby communities and to expand to a larger area. With better solutions for storing energy, feeding clean energy back into the grids, and managing energy consumption using smart meters, the innovative NBS helps stabilize the system and closes the gaps between clean energy generation and consumption.—one person, one household, and one community at a time.