The small Portuguese island of Porto Santo, in the Madeira archipelago, will be the stage of a potentially game-changing project in 2018.
French automobile manufacturer Renault is working with local utility Empresa de Eletricidade da Madeira (EEM) to launch a smart electric ecosystem in the island.
EEM is responsible for generating, transporting, distributing and selling energy in the Autonomous Region of Madeira, comprising the islands of Porto Santo and Madeira. Other project partners include French utility Bouygues Energies et Services, German charging solutions provider The Mobility House and Swedish-Swiss automation company ABB.
The programme, called ‘Sustainable Porto Santo - Smart Fossil Free Island’, was announced in late February 2018. It aims at accelerating the energy transition and reducing the island's carbon footprint as much as possible.
Combining sustainable technologies
The project will have three phases. In the first one, 20 volunteering residents of Porto Santo will drive Renault's EV models ZOEs and Kangoo Z.E.s for their regular daily use. The vehicles will engage in smart charging utilising the 40 charge points already installed across the island.
The second phase will bring V2G technology. The innovative system feeds surplus energy from parked vehicles back to the grid during peak times, serving as temporary storage units in addition to being smart charged. The project should reach this phase by the end of 2018.
The third and final phase will engage usage of second-life batteries. These will be recycled from Renault EVs that have been put out of use or whose batteries have been upgraded. Naturally, having an integrated, stationary storage system is essential to ensure that the energy produced in the island's solar and wind farms is optimally used and to prevent waste.
In addition, this measure does away with the production costs and material mining involved in the employment of new batteries, as well as eliminating the environmental issues that battery disposal can cause.
Project replicability with microgrids and renewables
The end goal is to have a sustainable island running on renewable energy and its self-sustained smart ecosystem with all of its different components working well together. If the project is successful, it can serve as an example for other islands, cities and other locations.
"Our aim is to build a model that can be carried over to other islands, eco-districts and cities, while consistently striving to achieve a large-scale rollout of electric mobility solutions that are affordable for all,” said Eric Feunteun, Electric Vehicles and New Business Programme Director at Renault.
It is essential for a project of this kind to blaze the trail for others to follow. Other similar island projects include the implementation of a smart microgrid and renewable energy farms in Tilos, Greece. For Dimitris Zafirakis, Project Coordinator of the programme in Tilos, sharing implementable results and technical expertise is a relevant feature of such projects - other islands that are engaged in this exchange include Pellworm, in Germany, the Portuguese island of La Graciosa, and Corsica.
Auto manufacturers in the energy transition
Renault is joining the ever growing team of auto manufacturers that are expanding their businesses to encompass smart energy projects. In fact, Renault has also created Renault Energy Services as a new entity in charge of smart grid projects, smart charging systems, V2G, repurposing EV batteries, and others.
Other examples include Audi, which, in January 2018, announced a trial project for a Smart Energy Network in the German city of Ingolstadt and the Zurich area in Switzerland. The system includes stationary batteries in homes to store energy produced from installed solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. The stored power can be used to power the home and the customer's EV. The system also includes a smart feature that foretells the energy needs of the home and vehicles and sends power automatically where it is required.
Nissan also launched its own initiative dubbed Nissan Energy Solar. In a similar project to Audi's, the project implements solar panels and integrated battery storage systems in homes in the UK. The power generated is to be used to power the home and residents' EVs and seeks to diminish grid reliability for participant households.
Tesla has ventured to become an energy solutions provider. In 2016, the company acquired SolarCity, a Californian solar power systems provider. Since then, Tesla has produced solar panels and integrated battery storage for home use, with one of its novelty products including a solar tile-based roof.