Forget about cords and plugs, electric cars will be charged wirelessly: energy solutions for the future are developed in Otaniemi
Because of climate change and oil depletion, the world needs new ways to produce energy. What could be a better place to test new concepts and ideas than Otaniemi: even the world's fourth deepest hole is located there, used in the future to heat water for district heating. The Smart Otaniemi project of VTT, Aalto University and the City of Espoo offers students, researchers and companies a place to try out new ideas and test their functionality. Will Otaniemi become a futuristic district where an intelligent energy system captures your vision as soon as you emerge from the metro tunnel?
‘A person who is interested in the subject, will notice the solar panels, electric cars and their charging points, others will not. The steering of energy consumption is successful when you do not pay attention to it’, explains Professor Matti Lehtonen, one of the approximately forty professors researching energy in Otaniemi.
Smart Otaniemi consists of pilots chosen every six months, which are hoped to become hit export products of the future. Business Finland, the sponsor, believes that this project could become the flagship of Finnish energy know-how.
‘The time is ripe for smart energy solutions, because new forms of energy, such as wind and solar energy, are more difficult to manage with existing methods. The concepts tested in Smart Otaniemi are to be commercialised as successful global solutions’, says Tatu Koljonen, who works as an Executive in Residence at the School of Electrical Engineering.
In addition to technical solutions, each pilot generates reusable data that students and researchers can use in their own projects. Experiences obtained in Smart Otaniemi also affect the legislation, which needs to be modified to fit the new energy solutions.
Professor Matti Lehtonen
It’s amazing how little electricity a car ultimately needs to run compared to, for instance, the heating of houses.
The future belongs to electric cars
Professor Matti Lehtonen believes that electrification will involve even heavy traffic. According to him, it is pointless to fear that the proliferation of electric cars would turn current emissions from cars to emissions caused by the production of electricity.
‘It’s amazing how little electricity a car ultimately needs to run compared to, for instance, the heating of houses. A week of heating the summer cottage with electricity is the equivalent of a 2000km drive with an electric car. When we all drive electric cars, the demand for electricity increases only by 10% compared to today’, he says.
Smart charging of electric cars will be piloted in the parking hall of the Aalto Works block in Otaniemi. Electricity price fluctuations and currently available forms of electricity production will be taken into account in the charging of electric cars. It is worthwhile to utilise excess solar energy in the charging of electric cars. If electricity is required for other purposes, it can, in extreme situations, be transferred from the electric car’s battery to the electrical network.
Otaniemi has dozens of buildings, and a few of them will be equipped and harnessed into a single virtual power plant compiled of small production and consumption units. Since such a power plant will consist of different ways of producing and consuming electricity, it will be flexible: wind and solar power can be used whenever available. When there is no wind or sunshine, other methods of electricity production can be used or the consumption reduced. A virtual power plant will enable the use of renewable production methods without problems in the availability or quality of electricity. Both the energy and the flexibility can be sold in Fingrid’s reserve market additionally paying back the investment.
In the new Väre building, in turn, heat is stored deep in the ground. Heat can be stored in the summer and used in the winter.
There are other options for charging an electric car than plugs and sockets. Wireless charging requires a strong magnetic field, which may be dangerous to humans. For the magnetic field not to be harmful to humans, the vehicle must be in the correct position with millimetre-accuracy. The following description could be true of public transport in the future:
A bus stops at a bus stop. Automation runs it to exactly the correct position with millimetre accuracy, so that the magnetic fields do not spread and affect people. While the passengers get on and off the bus, the strong magnetic field charges the batteries of the electric bus so that the journey can continue.
Are you interested in Smart Otaniemi? We are looking for new pilots again. Come and join us! In addition to a good idea, you will need get 2 to 3 companies involved. DL for the applications is 1 November.
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Text: Riikka Hopiavaara
Photo: Smart Otaniemi