RCD: The sustainable core of Rotterdam


TEXT: CHRIS NAP | PHOTOGRAPHY: ANTIM
Eneco believes Rotterdam Central District (RCD) can become one of the world’s most sustainable city centers. How to make it happen? By implementing Thermal Smart Grids. To make the transition to sustainable energy, power-hungry cooling systems will need to make way for TES technology. The main challenge: ‘pressure’ to find space underground. The solution: more synergy between buildings and building owners.
Wouter IJzermans, developer of sustainable energy systems at Eneco, explains why Thermal Smart Grids are the answer for the future of RCD. “Shared energy infrastructure is common in the Netherlands,” says IJzermans. “Consider electricity and gas and heating networks in downtown Rotterdam. Yet, when it comes to cooling buildings, it’s every man for himself. Each building has its own system. Sometimes, you’ll see a TES [Thermal Energy Storage] system. When building owners join forces to share TES systems, the costs drop significantly, the system is used optimally, and a maximum sustainability rating is achieved.”
Advantages of the TES system
A TES system works by pumping water from a well 20 to 60 meters underground up to the surface, carrying it through a building and then pumping it into another underground well. Cold water is used to counter the heat of summer, warm water is used for heating during winter. Once used, the water is deposited back into the ground. So, a TES system requires two sources, one warm and one cold, which need to be kept in equilibrium.
The greatest advantage of a TES system is its reduced energy consumption. Traditional cooling systems with rooftop AC units run on electricity and thus contribute to CO2 emissions. Also, they generate heat outdoors – causing so-called ‘heat stress’ in the city – and are just plain noisy.
When a traditional cooling system in a building is replaced by a TES system, the AC units are removed, but most of the existing components can be reused. Water is pumped from the ground through the existing chambers and pipes to heat or cool the rooms in the building. Usually, even small adjustments are unnecessary.
Eneco invests
Installing a TES system is, of course, not without cost. In most cases, however, Eneco covers most of the investment required. Consequently, installing a new TES system costs the same as replacing a traditional cooling system. The building owner makes a single payment to Eneco, after which Eneco sets up a system maintenance scheme. Building owners who choose to use a TES system collectively can share the costs of the initial investment and exchange heating and cooling energy.
The TES system can be installed at any time, such as when a cooling system is due to be replaced. Since the system is modular, it can easily be connected to a neighboring TES system in a building next door.
Who's on board?
Eneco has more than fifty of these TES systems in operation, of which several are already being used collectively. There is an extensive network for heating and cooling at the Wilhelmina Pier and, also, Ahoy and the new buildings planned for Hart van Zuid will be getting a large TES system.
The first shared TES system in RCD was installed at Hofplein. “Since this year, the TES source at Hofplein 19 has been supplying energy to Hofplein 20,” tells IJzermans proudly. IJzermans works together closely with his colleague Tim Rijkhoek, developer of sustainable energy projects. “We are currently in contact with several other building owners and managers, but to really win the title of the world’s most sustainable city center Rotterdam Central District, we need all buildings on board.”