It is appropriate to understand Transfo’s evolution before considering RE/SOURCED in detail.
Context for Transfo
The municipality of Zwevegem and intermunicipal organisation Leiedal bought Transfo in 2004. While the site and facilities can best be described as “unique” from a heritage perspective and are striking in architectural terms, Transfo could never be described as an “easy” site to repurpose for contemporary use. It therefore presented a very significant challenge to the municipality of Zwevegem: its listed status and legacy industrial assets had a clear strategic significance for the municipality, but at the same time, it was quite clear that a thoughtful and sustainable re-use would be extremely difficult to identify.
The Transformation of Transfo
In 2016, Transfo, with the intermunicipal organisation Leiedal as the representative organisation, was a partner on the URBACT INT-HERIT project, which brought together nine European cities facing challenges related to the revitalisation of their cultural heritage.
Today, Transfo comprises a revitalised and iconic civic asset within the municipality of Zwevegem. It has been completely repurposed to deliver significant value for the community, through the creation of residential, commercial and recreational assets and amenities. The images above summarise these assets and the amenities they form while the following video provides a current description of the Transfo development.
The RE/SOURCED Project
RE/SOURCED utilises the partnership-building experience gained through taking Transfo from a derelict factory to a vibrant community. It has six partners supporting Leiedal (as the Lead):
- Zwevegem Municipality
- University of Ghent
- Province of West Flanders
- Flux 50
- Flemish Institute of Technological Research (VITO).
RE/SOURCED will design and demonstrate a circular, mid-scale and self-sufficient energy system in an urban environment at Transfo. The backbone of the system is a DC (direct current) power grid, which offers efficiencies through fewer conversion losses and better use of materials (achieving circularity through gaining more capacity with the same amount of metals/materials).
It is clear that this is a very innovative project and one that is breaking new ground on technical, regulatory and citizen engagement levels. A local energy community, in which all users participate, will manage the shared infrastructure and stimulate co-operation. The partners are focused on ensuring that the energy infrastructure created through RE/SOURCED will best meet the needs of citizens now and in the future. Citizen focus and engagement is central to the approach.
The project will be “a lighthouse’, comprising an operational circular smart grid that will nurture and engage citizens. An educational programme for citizens and children will be designed and implemented. A separate training package for professionals will facilitate the adoption of the RE/SOURCED process by other cities and will enable them to adopt integrated circular energy systems based on the learning.
Progress and priorities
Early discussions with the Flemish Energy Regulator (VREG) and the distribution network operator (Fluvius) have highlighted fundamental challenges in how energy generated by the renewable energy system can be combined with that from the public grid in a cost effective manner that also meets the regulator's legislative requirements.
The fact that RE/SOURCED is a pioneering project is unsurprisingly exposing limitations associated with current legislation as well as the eligibility of projects for “sandbox” acceptance. The team has established a very good dialogue with the Flemish government, the regulator and Fluvius. It has also engaged expert inputs in an attempt to explore potential solutions and identify the optimum route forward. It is recognized that finding acceptable solutions will take time and this will be the focus over the medium term.