ABB Building Automation Applied in the World’s First Energy Self-Sufficient Multi-Family Dwelling

World | Sustainable Development

energieautarkes-mfh_projekt-der-uwa_390x222No connection to the grid. No gas supply line. Not even a wood burning stove for those cold winter nights. In a building with no less than nine apartments.

The Umwelt Arena in the municipality of Brütten near Winterthur, Switzerland, is an interactive exhibit that helps visitors experience and understand sustainability. The facility has partnered with ABB to build the world’s first multifamily dwelling capable of operating year-round without any external sources of energy. All the power it needs comes from the sun via solar panels. The apartment is not connected to the grid and sets new energy efficiency benchmarks using automation solutions from ABB.

The cornerstone for the world’s first energy self-sufficient multifamily dwelling was laid in January 2015. Since then, construction has been proceeding apace, the objective being to have the first tenants move in during the course of next year.The building’s roof and siding will be covered with photovoltaic modules since the sun is the only/primary energy source. Without a grid connection to feed electricity in and out, provisions must be made to store some of the summer’s excess energy so that it can be used in winter, when consumption peaks.

Power electronics help cut consumption

The cleanest form of energy is saved energy and efficient energy use is one of ABB’s core competencies. In fact it is part of the company’s entire portfolio. Already today, ABB Switzerland is able to deliver products, systems and services that enable efficient power generation, distribution and consumption, as well as significantly improve a facility’s CO2 balance. The key technology is the breed of power electronics developed at ABB’s group research center in Baden-Dättwil (AG). Power electronics are a big part of improving energy efficiency; for example, in applications such as energy transmission and conversion, interconnection of renewable energies, transportation and building automation. Projects such as the world’s first energy self-sufficient building demonstrate what can be done with existing technologies and the potential of efficient resource utilization. ABB’s smart solutions help maximize exploitation of this potential and further minimize energy losses.

Energy efficiency: the key to success

The time displacement between when energy is produced and when it is consumed presents a major challenge. While in summer, electricity generation is very high but consumption comparably low, in winter it is the exact opposite: low production, high consumption. High efficiency solar panels on the roof and the entire building façade produce energy to minimize this power deficit. In addition, the building is extremely well insulated and the efficiency of the household appliances is second to none. Walter Schmid, Chairman of the Board of Directors Umwelt Arena and owner of the solar powered multifamily dwelling stressed: “The key requirement for making a building self-sufficient is to boost efficiency everywhere; from energy production and energy storage to building automation and power consumption.”

Building automation from ABB provides convenience in a networked home

ABB automation and monitoring solutions inside the apartments take care of the complete building control including automated room darkening in summer. ABB’s free@home building automation solution enables tenants of the energy self-sufficient building to intuitively operate and adjust the building control systems.

The innovative system can be used to control lighting, heating, air conditioning, blinds and communications via a smartphone, tablet or personal computer. ABB-free@home makes it easier to access the world of smart living while at the same time ensuring maximum energy efficiency. ABB will use the project to collect valuable experience and extensive data that may lead to even more sophisticated energy efficiency and convenience solutions.

Multiple storage systems

Project engineers estimate that one hour of sunlight is enough to cover the energy needs of the tenants of the world’s first multifamily dwelling for an entire day. The excess energy generated while the sun is still shining (about eight hours per day in summer) can be used to charge short and long-term storage facilities. The short-term storage bank (batteries) will be able to bridge energy deficits for up to three days. A long-term thermal energy medium and a hydrogen tank ensure that the available energy will be used efficiently. These two long-term storage systems are supplemented by a battery and a heat pump. The self-sufficient apartment concept includes one electric and one gasoline powered vehicle, which draw their energy for a distance of 10,000 km each annually from the solar panels or recycled kitchen waste. ABB will also provide power distribution products, switches and electrical outlets, as well as components for electric charging stations.

The world’s first energy self-sufficient building demonstrates that sustainable construction without sacrifice is possible. ABB’s products and solutions ensure that individual needs can be conveniently and intuitively met without wasting valuable energy.