Building Data Helps Smart Grid Allocate Resources Optimally

Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) have developed a system that can be installed in buildings to collect data on people’s energy usage and comfort within buildings and then send that data to a smart electric grid to allocate resources optimally. The interface can be integrated into any type of building and the computer code used is open source.

Smart buildings already have systems that can collect data from devices like smart phones and the sensors in electronic appliances but these interfaces all work separately. The EPFL system, however, is capable of collecting data from any sensor to achieve an overall picture of a building’s electricity needs.

“There are a huge number of smartphones and connected devices available on the market, covering everything from household and leisure appliances to safety. They all use sensors, but the underlying technologies can be very different. Our solution must be compatible with various technologies so that it can be connected to any device. That way, the building and the grid’s energy needs can be managed smoothly regardless of the devices in place,” says George Lilis, a researcher at EPFL

Olivier Van Cutsem, a doctoral student in the Electronics Laboratory, is using a smart building simulator to study the benefits that smart buildings could bring through their energy strategies.

“The aim of a smart grid is to ensure that users get a top-notch service. This involves managing energy peaks and volatility in renewable energy output while at the same time keeping costs down and ensuring a constant level of comfort,” said Van Cutsem. “By looking at grid signals or available local output, we can adjust the load at certain times. An apartment could, for instance, be heated a few minutes earlier if the electricity is cheaper at that time or if that will curtail a peak in usage. There is also some room for maneuver in terms of the comfort that users are willing to accept. We know that people tend to heat their apartments to between 22 and 26 degrees Celsius, so we could opt for the lower end of the scale when the grid is busy.”