We had a chat with Lorenz Van Damme (TH!NK-E) about their activities in Oud-Heverlee demosite and in the neighbourhood.
What have been the updates in Oud-Heverlee demosite in the past 6 months? What do you think are the most important results achieved so far?
At the Oud-Heverlee demo site during the last six months, we have been finalizing the installations of the flexibility assets. These installations all had been postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but with restrictions lightened, work could now progress. This includes the installation of the neighbourhood battery. The installation of this battery is the most visible asset to the residents of the street, therefore we also took the opportunity to heighten user engagement once more by having the kids of the neighbourhood paint the battery. With all these installations finished soon, the real testing can begin, and we can start collecting results. Together with installing the assets we also focused on keeping the neighbours involved. To do this we not only let the kids paint the battery but also organized a user event for the residents in October.
What were the main challenges and how did you overcome them?
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the involvement of neighbours had been down. Physical meetings became impossible, and definitely with the entire neighbourhood. Many online virtual initiatives were taken to keep the neighbours involved, but these only had limited results. Online events are less attractive to people, and outside of the comfort zone of some less tech-savvy residents. In October, we are organizing our first real post-COVID event to get the residents involved again. Here, they will be able to get information from the partners involved in the project and be able to ask questions directly.
Can you tell us a bit more about the neighbourhood battery painting activity you did this summer?
During the summer we let the kids of the neighbourhood paint the neighbourhood battery. This served as a first physical coming together for the residents and was aimed at heightening the sense of ownership of the battery. By having the kids paint the battery, we want to give the residents a direct link to the otherwise grey building in their street. This moment was also used to plan some interviews with the residents and TUE, to gauge their feelings and involvement before the project is fully deployed.
What do you expect from the demonstration campaign which should start in the next months?
We are looking forward to seeing all the assets working together, and are curious to see the real-life results as well. In simulations a lot of improvements are predicted, it will be interesting to see this happen in real life. It will also be a challenge to get the neighbours involved and interested in what is going on in their street.