ORNL scientists have devised a control architecture for a fleet of HVAC units, which could allow utilities to harness the demand from a city’s worth of buildings to help balance the power grid. The research is funded by DOE’s Building Technologies Office. Credit: Andy Sproles/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy (hi-res image)
November 1, 2018 — Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientists have devised a method to control the heating and cooling systems of a large network of buildings for power grid stability—all while ensuring the comfort of occupants. Buildings consume about 73 percent of the nation’s electricity and about half of that is for heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. Harnessing the HVAC-related demand of a fleet of buildings “can make a difference in frequency regulation,” or what grid operators refer to as the balance between electricity supply and demand, said ORNL’s Mohammed Olama. “We developed control schemes that don’t require a large number of calculations and can be implemented easily on existing HVAC systems that have simple on-off controls.” Simulations found that the controls are successful in providing frequency regulation from a fleet of 50 buildings, while keeping indoor temperatures within 0.5 degrees Celsius of a set range. The research is detailed in the journal Energies.