Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


OPTi — Result In Brief

Project ID: 649796
Funded under: H2020-EU.3.3.1.
Country: Sweden
Domain: Society, Energy

Smart software for more sustainable heating

District heating and cooling (DHC) systems keep people all over Europe feeling comfortable in their homes, but these systems can be inefficient, environmentally unsustainable or not meeting people’s needs. A recent initiative worked with DHC companies in cities around Europe to build new, more efficient DHC management solution that responds to users’ needs.
Smart software for more sustainable heating
DHC systems have been around since the Romans, but modern DHC usually distributes heat from generation plants to warm or cool houses, apartments and entire city blocks. These systems vary in their methods, efficiency and effectiveness, and are not optimised for efficiency or do not meet the needs of end users.

The OPTi project worked to increase efficiency and save energy in DHC systems while reducing infrastructure and equipment costs. The initiative targeted efficiency in terms of economic benefit, reduced peak loads and comfortable end users.

“The OPTi project wanted to make thermal energy available at the right place, at the right time and in the right amount, while avoiding large investments in new equipment,” says Prof. Wolfgang Birk, coordinator for OPTi. “By optimising current systems with intelligent control approaches, we can save energy, avoid using environmentally unfriendly energy sources, and still satisfy the end users’ energy demands.”

Building and testing a DHC framework

OPTi researchers developed the OPTi framework, a collection of software tools that allows DHC managers and designers to model, analyse and control current and envisioned DHC systems. Together, these tools will lead to better DHC system design and better control over current DHC systems.

The initiative started with a thorough investigation and review of the state of the art in DHC systems, and eight use-cases were defined in detail. From this information OPTi identified five key performance indicators that researchers used to evaluate their efforts for the rest of the project. They also defined functional and non-functional requirements for their framework.

One of the major components of the framework is the OPTi-Sim virtual environment, which researchers used to test and model different approaches to optimise DHC systems. Using OPTi-Sim, researchers could test out new methods and approaches without incurring high material costs or interfering with existing systems. The virtual environment is also being used by some DHC companies to test new methods.

“An important tool is a virtualisation of the real district heating and cooling systems in a simulation environment that enables us to study the current system and improved system, in a safe environment,” notes Prof. Birk. “We were able to test more radical approaches, which one would not dare to make in real life.”

Another aspect of the OPTi framework is a forecasting tool, which was tested by several partner companies. IBM is now using this forecasting approach as part of services offered to utilities companies in Europe.

OPTi also developed a system called Virtual Knob to give users control over their thermal comfort and tested this out in a large office building in Sweden. Another project outcome is an improved demand response system. Demand response refers to changes in electricity or heat usage by end users, and can be managed by demand response systems like smart electricity meters or load-shedding measures.

Taking the framework forward

OPTi shared their results and findings widely through project promotion material, a project website, and dissemination activities including talks, visits, publications and industry events. The project also organised a workshop in Sydney as part of the IEEE SmartGridComm 2016 conference.

Birk says that many of the tools developed during the OPTi project are entering commercial use through industry partnerships established as part of the project. “Our partners Luleå Energi AB and Sampol are right now planning the implementation of some of the assets developed during the OPTi project,” he comments. “All of our industry partners are already exploiting results in their own line of business while we have ongoing discussions with stakeholders to bring some of the assets to the market.”

Further, the project’s innovations and academic findings will not go unused. “New research projects are already started which further develop the achieved results and improve their capabilities,” says the professor, adding: “For example, a new project is now addressing some of the limitations of OPTi-Sim.”


OPTi, DHC, energy, district heating and cooling, OPTi-Sim, thermal
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