Albert Cot explains what energy islands are: consumption and production of sustainable energy in the Port
The Creators project (CREATing community energy Systems) promotes the introduction of different local energy communities or energy islands in Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Estonia, Bulgaria and France with the aim of generating and storing fuel from renewable sources to accelerate the energy transition and have greater independence from the electrical distribution network.
The engineering firms Cordeel and COMSA lead the consortium in charge of planning and executing these European energy islands. The Port of Barcelona participates in this program with an initial installation in the Moll de Pescadors that is expected to increase its self-consumption of renewable energy from 44% to 68%. With a registered consumption of 777 megawatt-hours (MWh) in 2019, the system includes the installation of 1,545 photovoltaic panels that would generate a total of 708 MWh of renewable energy. Albert Cot, Head of COMSA, explains the details to PierNext.
What is an energy island?
It is a model that commits to self-sufficiency in energy generation, as well as in its consumption and storage. It reduces dependency on the distribution network and transport and, therefore, a reduction in the losses that this may cause. All energy consumed locally is efficient. Another advantage is that we ensure that we pay a known price for this energy, since the installation of, for example, a specific number of photovoltaic power is done with a business plan that spans for 15 or 20 years. Unless there is an unforeseen event like a natural catastrophe, you know in advance what the energy will cost you for the next 15 years.
What is the impact of having an energy island in large infrastructures such as ports or airports?
For a large infrastructure, to be able to forecast their energy costs is very important. Additionally, to be capable of generating part of its energy, from renewable sources, makes it even more relevant.
What changes are taking place in the energy sector?
When we speak of energy transition, we do it in a global context not at a regional or state level, especially in the climate emergency situation we are currently facing. Decarbonisation, the generation of electrical energy based on fossil fuels, is being displaced by renewable energy sources, basically solar energy produced through photovoltaic technologies, and the production of wind energy, both on land and offshore.
The second pillar are the large production centers, either nuclear or combined cycles with natural gas, which produce large electrical powers in the order of 1,000 megawatts. The new models are committed to decentralization and to distribute the generation of electricity in areas spread around the territory, with lower powers of 20, 50 or 100 megawatts at most.
The third pillar is the digitalization of energy to generate exactly the energy that is needed, neither more or less, and always in balance with the distribution network. This entails the use of advanced digital control tools and the ability to have batteries that allow to store the energy of a building, for example.
Creators is a pilot that started in September 2020 in the Moll de Pescadors. What's its objective?
The project includes the Llotja, the ice factory and other facilities located on this pier, such as parking lots and restaurants. First, we identify the distribution of energy consumption and monitor it over time. As the Port of Barcelona is situated in an open-plan area, which is well oriented and receives sunlight practically all 365 days a year, photovoltaic energy is the most suitable.
Panels have therefore been installed on the roofs of the buildings and on the pergolas. Once we identify both the consumers of this energy and the generators, a simulation and matching exercise is carried out, which gives us some conclusions like the percentage of self-consumption and the equivalent price per kilowatt / hour generated by the different actors. After this, we can dimension the investment and exploitation of the energy community.
The islands are created to promote self-consumption, and digitalization is the tool used to achieve this
Have you been able to draw some conclusions?
We are currently in the data collection phase and we have several estimates, but I prefer not to share them until we have the final results. What I can say is that it can fit well, especially with the ice factory because ice has the ability to store energy. This means it can be produced at night to be used during the day.
What challenges would you highlight from the process?
Thinking mid term, the size can possibly represent a challenge if we extrapolate it to more piers. In Moll de Pescadors, all the buildings and pergolas are in a close radius. Regarding the integration with other piers, we will have to see if they are in line with the consumptions and their balance. Legally speaking, we also need to see how much energy can be transferred between consumers and at what power, since right now this can only be done at short distances or if consumers belong to the same cadastral reference.
In terms of energy, how do you see the future of the Port of Barcelona?
The Port, as an emblematic organization and institution in southern Europe, is a very interesting platform within the energy field since the transition to non-polluting energy is the sum of many things. But the fact that the port can produce its own energy from renewable sources, become self-sufficient and control the economic cost, makes us think about other possibilities, such as the Port becoming a recharging energy point for the boats that moor at its facilities. The starting point is a very competitive infrastructure that can promote this energy to other stakeholders. This would be a perfect future scenario for the Creators project.
ALBERT COT, EXPERT IN TECHNOLOGY INNOVATION APPLIED TO ENERGIES
Albert Cot has a wide experience in innovation and entrepreneurship, in the field of renewable energies, energy efficiency, electric distribution, railway infrastructure and environmental technologies. He currently collaborates in different projects from the Innovation Unit at COMSA.
Creators project is co-funded by the Horizon 2020 programme of the European Union.