ABB makes energy sustainability a reality

2017-12-04 - Living off-grid - helping to tackle global warming without costing the earth

Creating a low-carbon society is a noble ambition. Severing the ‘umbilical cord’ that tethers comfort to carbon is even nobler, some may even say implausible, but this is exactly what the Vogt family and eight other families have done by living in the world’s first multi-family, 100 percent self-sufficient, house.

These families sleep easy, not just because the climate in the house is perfectly controlled, or because a power utility bill will never land on their doorstep, but because they are living the seemingly impossible dream, a life with zero carbon emissions. A life that no longer links carbon to comfort and the adverse effects that has on the plant’s climate. So how’s this possible?

ABB, working with partner Umwelt Arena Spreintenbach, have created the world’s first off-grid multi-occupancy building without compromising on comfort.

Built in the northern lowlands of Switzerland, the building is powered entirely by renewables. Solar photovoltaic panels cover the roof and the façade of the building and the direct current (DC) generated is converted to alternating current (AC) by 26 solar inverters to meet the needs of the householders.

In one hour, the system harnesses enough energy to provide power for the families for a whole day and the excess is either stored in lithium iron phosphate batteries or used to turn water into hydrogen fuel. This means that the energy requirements of all nine families are met purely by renewables all year round, making the building 100 percent energy self-sufficient.


Off-grid doesn’t mean comfortless



Even with complete disconnection from the grid the families live in comfort. All of the household appliances are energy efficient and ABB’s building automation system, free@home, is used to monitor energy sustainability. It also enables residents to control their lighting and optimize internal and external conditions, all from their smartphones or tablets.

The Vogts are one of the families who reside in the building. They say that the ABB automation system enables them to have regular visibility on their energy use.

“We look almost every day to see what our energy usage has been,” said Corinne Vogt. “Around 80 percent usage is green, 90 percent is orange and then over 100 percent is red. In the whole 16 months that we’ve lived here, none of the months have averaged as a red month, even in January when the conditions were really tough, we were only at around 90 percent.”

Having this visibility on their energy means that their environmental impact is at the forefront of their home life, something which the Vogt family believe is particularly important for the next generation to understand.

“For us it’s very important that we do something for our environment,” said Corinne. “My daughter is 6 years old and she knows that this is a very special building.”

Defining the future of sustainable buildings

This pioneering project not only proved that the ambition of off-grid living in comfort is possible, but that buildings such as this are a sustainable option that could significantly reduce the environmental impact of human life.

Remo Lütolf, Country Manager, ABB Schweiz, said that this project both showcased the efficiency of ABB technology, and set a benchmark for the future of sustainable construction.

He said, “Research and innovation needs lighthouse projects like this. This project demonstrates that our innovative technology works and that there’s no need to sacrifice comfort to achieve energy self-sufficiency.”

If you would like to see the house you can schedule a visit through Umwelt Arena or visit an exhibition at Umwelt Arena Schweiz.

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