Smart solutions to save energy in new research project

Concept development, implementation and a customer perspective. The whole chain is represented when Malmö University, together with the companies Noda and Karlshamn Energi, starts a two-year research project. The aim is to create smart and energy-saving solutions for production and distribution of energy.

The project is a part of the national strategic innovation program within the Internet of Things, initiated by Vinnova, Formas and the Swedish Energy Agency.

“The main goal of the project is to make the IT systems of the energy supplier – for the production and distribution of district heating – collaborate with the connected equipment that may exist in a single building or home”, says Paul Davidsson, professor of computer science.

The entire chain is critical
The shift toward a deregulated and distributed energy production calls for new solutions where the entire chain of production, distribution and consumption is linked together.

According to Paul Davidsson, it is about connecting the micro and macro level of the energy systems, which “today are completely separated and do not communicate with one another”.

Households may affect
By having smarter solutions, we can avoid expensive and environmentally unfriendly production, for example, as when oil-fired power plants are used to cope with the consumption peaks that sometimes occur during winter.

“Among other things, we conduct research on how to control the valves inside a house so that they let precisely enough heat through in order to achieve the desired effects on both the micro and macro level”, says Paul Davidsson, who sees a future where single households could be of influence:

“The system may know that a particular family is on vacation and can then cut back on the heat. Or the opposite: The temperature could actually be raised – using apartments or buildings to store surplus heat. You could then get a lower energy price if you accept that the temperature is lower – or higher – when you are not at home. Even if we on a national level only manage to save 5 percent, it would mean billions of SEK in savings on unnecessary heating, and a reduced environmental impact”, he says.

Implementation is a challenge
IOTAP conducts research in areas such as “smart homes” where people and technology interact to create energy-efficient solutions for the society. In the project, IOTAP does the research and the development of smart algorithms and software, while the other parties do the testing and implementation. Getting the solutions to work practically is a major challenge: Sensors and actuators don’t always work as they should. There is also a delay in district heating systems, which means that it can take a day before the heat produced at the power plant reaches everyone.

The project is led by Christian Johansson at NODA, a company that is leading in R&D on intelligent heating systems, with a particular focus on district heating/cooling, heat pumps and gas.

“I have been involved in many projects that end with simulations and calculation models. However, all successful projects – nationally and internationally – test solutions in real life. Here we have all the elements: concept development, implementation and the customer perspective through Karlshamn Energi.

The project is called SHINE – Smart Homes in an Intelligent Energy System – and runs until the end of May, 2017. The total project budget is 4,338,000 SEK, of which Vinnova funds half.

This post was originally published in Swedish; text Magnus Jando.

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