KWR and WarmteStad work on enhancing the sustainability of heat plant with a digital twin

A digital twin of the future heat plant in Groningen will help make smarter use of renewable sources like solar heat, residual heat and of seasonal storage. WarmteStad and KWR will develop this computer simulation together, building on the experience that KWR has with dynamic modelling and digital twins.

On 21 October, KWR and WarmteStad signed a collaboration agreement for the development of a digital twin of the new heat plant in Groningen. The project will run until mid-2024, and do so in parallel with the construction of the heat plant. Dick Takkebos, director of WarmteStad: ‘KWR already has a great deal of knowledge and experience in building and using a digital twin in the drinking water field. We will make use of this in the new tool, with a view to exploiting our existing and future renewable heat sources even better.’

Varying design and operation

Marette Zwamborn, senior researcher at KWR: ‘Thanks to this collaboration we can build the digital variant of the heat plant even as WarmteStad builds the real one. WarmteStad can only build one version of the heat plant, but with our digital twin we can in principle create endless variations. Together with WarmteStad we can therefore research the design and operation of such complex heating systems. The project brings together KWR’s research lines in the fields of heat storage, digitalisation and sustainable system solutions.’

Sustainable heat

WarmteStad wants, among other things, to use the residual heat from data centres to heat the heating network in Groningen, but business developer Theo Venema also foresees the use of other heat sources. ‘Future heat sources, such as surface water or the sewer system, or solar heat and residual heat from industry are all possible options. We will store the surplus summer heat in the subsurface for use during the winter months.’

Combining heat sources

The combination of various renewable heat sources and subsurface heat storage within heating networks is complex and its use is still limited. Venema: ‘With a digital twin you can see which kind of heat – solar or residual – you can best store. Among other factors, energy prices and even the weather forecasts play a role here. The tool gives us insight into how we can optimally combine and use the various heat sources, the storage and the heat plant. And it is of course at least as important that our customers rest assured that they will always have heating, at a reasonable price.’

RVO grant

The development of the digital twin is partly funded by a grant from the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO), within the framework of the Demonstration of Energy and Climate Innovation (DEI+) scheme. WarmteStad and KWR share their findings publicly, so as to strengthen understanding of the functioning of subsurface heat storage and use of multiple heat sources. In this manner other heat projects in the Netherlands can benefit from the outcomes and lessons learned.