Schoonschip – a pioneering floating energy communityAmsterdam, Netherlands Energy Communities, Environment and Resource efficiency, Local social sustainability, Organizational structures
Schoonschip, a floating residential neighbourhood of 47 households located in Amsterdam North is a bottom-up community initiative, with the ambition to create the most sustainable floating urban development in Europe. The project aims to re-envision the way we approach sustainable development, setting a new standard for resource management, sustainable building design, community governance, and closing nutrient cycles.
Schoonschip was initiated by a small group of people with the goal to create ‘The most sustainable floating neighbourhood of Europe’. They selected like-minded people around them (through friends/family), all of them selected by their motivation and signing a ‘manifest’ with community goals and ambitions. The community grew to 46 households, consisting of over 100 people, divided over 30 floating buildings.
The energy community Schoonschip exercised effective full control during the development and in operational management. The project was initiated in 2010 and created several legal entities to realise its’ ambitions, in which all inhabitants were a member or otherwise involved.
Energy-efficient equipment, proper insulation, applying passive solar heat, heat pumps, solar boilers: these are just a few of the many measures Schoonschip had to take to keep its energy consumption as low and as sustainable as possible.
The community runs its own private peer-to-peer electricity grid, that is connected to the main grid by one connection. Schoonschip aims to generate as much as possible of its energy, and any excess from the households will be efficiently handled by our smart-grid in which electricity is stored in large batteries and heat in heat pump boilers. Appliances are controlled by the smart grid for maximum self-consumption and optimal grid management and advanced energy trade in the future.
In 2016 Schoonschip obtained an exemption from the Dutch Energy Law for experimentation purposes. the exemption makes it possible to develop and maintain a private-net behind one grid connection. This policy has been proven to be crucial to establish a well-established smart grid. Specifically, this policy took away strong financial barriers.
Financial expenses were relatively high for the inhabitants of this highly ambitious project, mainly due to higher costs for building on water, the overheated construction market in 2018, and the investments in the smart grid and other pilot projects. Several subsidies lowered this burden for both the community as a whole (province loan, H2020 subsidy for the development of the smart grid), and individuals within the community (municipality subsidy, ISDE subsidies).
The energy ambitions are part of a bigger ‘urban masterplan’ and a ‘sustainability masterplan’. Targets have been specified in different areas:
- Shared mobility
- Ecology & green
- Health & well-being
- Circular & smart
Schoonschip consists of a well-advanced set of products and installations (for P2P trading):
- 502 PV panels, consisting over 150kWp of PV production
- 30+ solar collectors
- 30 investors (smart-grid-ready), and most sets include optimisers
- Solar boilers
- 31 Heat pumps (smart-grid-ready)
- 30 batteries (7,5kW, smart-grid-ready)
- Central EMS
- Smart meters (multiple per building)
- Community platform dashboard
- Stichting Schoonschip
- VVE Schoonschip
- Stichting Pioneer Vessel
Why it works
Living at Schoonschip is different compared to how members lived previously. The homes are well-insulated and make use of low-temperature floor heating, so the temperatures in-home are very constant. Ecological isolation materials are used, which not only benefit for thermal isolation, but also for acoustic isolation, moisture management and heat/cold accumulation. Energy bills go down to almost zero, which compensates for the higher initial investments.
- All members of the VvE are owners of the collective infrastructure (jetty’s, electricity, water, drainage and vacuum infrastructure) and one collectively owned community home.
- The batteries are collectively owned by the community, but not centrally installed and insured by the individual members.
- 30 households live on a building consisting of two homes. Most of them share their heat pump, solar boiler and other installations.
- The collective home is owned by all members, also the assets in that home are equally owned by everyone from the community.
As part of the tender process for the development on this location, the group had to fill-in a ‘sustainability-checklist’ provided by the municipality. A higher score on this checklist resulted in a higher change to win the tender. Because the sustainability ambitions of the community were high, all the maximum scores were filled-in at that time. After winning the tender, a sustainability consultancy party was hired to produce a report which pointed out that the measurements from the checklist were at some aspects undesired, and the duplication of some measurements were also undesirable. However, at that stage the checklist already became obligatory. The checklist did not account for new insights and advancing technology. This municipality policy therefore turned out to be a bad-practice and eventually even limited the high ambitions of this energy community.
It was not possible to create an owners’ association for multiple homes on one floating building. As a result, almost no banks were willing to issue mortgages. Only one bank with distinguishing high social and sustainable objectives was willing to create a solution for this (Triodos bank), a process that eventually took multiple years.
Schoonschip was not only founded with the intention to become the most sustainable floating neighbourhood of Europe, but also to share this knowledge and experiences in an open-source way to speed up the energy transition and to prevent climate change.
All learnings, experiences and advices have been bundled in the Schoonschip-Knowledge-Platform ‘Greenprint’, which can be accessed online via http://greenprint.schoonschipamsterdam.orghttps://schoonschipamsterdam.org/#site_header