Open Thor Living Lab - large-scale lab for energy
To address major societal challenges such as the energy and climate crisis in a rapidly changing world, innovation is indispensable. New technologies and services must be given every opportunity to be rolled out quickly and efficiently. To help enable this growth and to test these new technologies extensively in practice, EnergyVille, Stad Genk and Thor Park NV established the Open Thor Living Lab in 2021. This lab – spanning Thor Park, the New Texas residential area, the Waterschei garden district and KRC Genk – serves as a unique test environment to test and accelerate new energy concepts and technologies to market. The site is also rolling out an innovative heat grid, a direct current grid and an advanced data platform – all with the aim of making the best use of available energy and offering companies a permanent test environment for the development of innovative technologies and services.
Heating the field with waste heat
Today, KRC Genk co-signed up for the Open Thor Living Lab, thus becoming an important infrastructure partner of the living lab.
“The structural involvement of KRC Genk in the living lab offers significant added value for the projects taking place here,” explains Daan Six, research program manager at EnergyVille and VITO. “KRC Genk has a very specific profile that complements the technology campus at Thor Park and the surrounding residential areas of Nieuw Texas and Waterschei.”
“For example, one of the things we are investigating in the living lab is how to make the best possible use of local and sustainably generated energy. After all, we want to avoid electricity and heat or cold surpluses as much as possible or, where this is not possible, recover, store and exchange them between different sites, buildings and users. By means of so-called energy nodes, we can bring together and optimize all energy flows within the Open Thor Living Lab. In this way, we are creating a unique and “living” test environment, with real users, where many innovations can be tested and optimized in a real context in the coming years. For example, we will connect the solar panels on the roof of the EnergyVille buildings with the smart charging infrastructure on and around Thor Park and KRC Genk. Furthermore, we will investigate how the thermal and electrical energy needs and surpluses of a soccer stadium (think of field heating in winter, beer cooling in summer, high electricity consumption during soccer matches,…) can be optimally connected with those of the surrounding residential areas and the Thor site. In this way, the Open Thor living lab including the KRC Genk site can serve as a relevant context to test out different innovative energy combinations and techniques. We are therefore delighted that a forward-looking soccer club such as KRC Genk wants to play an active role in the energy transition story, thus enabling innovation in collaboration with citizens, companies, governments and research institutions. ” said Daan Six.
“Climate change poses challenges to all of society. With our unique energy demand, this also poses a huge challenge for us as a soccer club. Creativity is one of the basic values on which KRC Genk’s vision is based. Both on and off the field. By opening the doors of the Cegeka Arena to the partners of the Open Thor Living Lab, we are actively helping to develop those solutions of tomorrow on our ground. In this way, we as a club not only ensure a maximum soccer experience, but we are also actively thinking about how to provide an answer to the energy issues that many of our supporters are struggling with,” says General Director of KRC Genk Erik Gerits.