In a unique partnership between the Smart Energy research group, Avans students and water board Brabantse Delta, innovative research is being carried out. The aim is to save energy, better balance the electricity and sewerage networks, optimise processes and gather knowledge. The students, coming from different disciplines, actively cooperate with enthusiastic supervisors from the water board and under the guidance of Jobert Ludlage. He is a lecturer-researcher within the Smart Energy research group and watches how the students devise and implement new solutions. This collaboration offers valuable benefits and insights to the students, the research group and the water board.

Publication date
3 July 2023
Research area

Managing peaks in energy and water

A first group of enthusiastic engineering students previously worked on optimising a sewage treatment plant (rwzi), in this case at plant Nieuwveer in Breda. Together with that group of students, greater energy efficiency was achieved over the operation of the pumps among themselves. That is, if you have a particular demand, it becomes more energetically efficient just by adjusting the software. To be able to test that and make it understandable, a setup was made that has already achieved positive interim results. This year, the second group of students went into more depth. They delved into balancing the electricity grid and the sewage grid. The aim was to reduce peaks in energy consumption and water discharge. The Dutch power grid is at risk of gridlock and this helps to smooth that out. But it not only helps reduce the load on the grid. It also offers financial benefits as electricity can be regulated on a quarterly basis. So when the price is high you don’t do anything for a while and when the price is low you do. So you want to accommodate peaks that you might encounter later.

Freedom, responsibility, teamwork

The students experience a lot of freedom and responsibility during this project in which they spend an average of 1 day a week. They are given the opportunity to actively contribute ideas, propose solutions and learn from their mistakes. This gives them a chance to apply their analytical skills in practice, work hands on and gain valuable experience. They also get the chance to work with enthusiastic supervisors, which visibly stimulates their interest and performance. What is striking is that there is always also a striking interest from girls in projects at the water board. The social and solution-oriented aspect of the assignment generally really appeals to girls.

Students are a sounding board

The cooperation between the students and the water board is not only valuable for the Smart Energy research group and the students, but certainly also for the water board. The regular team at the water board has been working on optimising the pumps for years, and the students always bring fresh eyes and new insights. This is partly because of the fascinating questions they ask. In addition, the water board benefits from the extra hands and innovative thinking of the students. It really is working together on a level playing field.

Innovative project

The results of the project show that an energy gain of 30% on average has already been achieved. This is already significant. This shows that the students, the research group and the water board are doing the right things at the right time, given the growing urgency in society to save energy. In this project, they are even beyond what industry can currently provide. This is because they are not only working on new control techniques but also a completely new way of using PLCs and new protocols. So students are testing something that is not yet running anywhere else. How great is that!

Students wanted for 2023/2024!

Besides optimising pumps and achieving energy efficiency, the water board is also interested in biological techniques and other areas of research. The aim is to continue the partnership with Avans students on a permanent basis so that other research can also be launched. This primarily involves students in mechanical engineering, mechatronics, electrical engineering , technical computer science and chemical engineering, but other students can certainly get in touch as well. Students who are interested in an internship, minor or graduation project at the water board Brabantse Delta can contact Jobert Ludlage at


These infographics were provided by water board Brabantse Delta

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