The National Sustainable Building Energy Test bed at Nimbus

Introduction

Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) in partnership with United Technologies Research Centre Ireland Ltd. (UTRC-I) manage the “National Sustainable Building Energy Test-bed” (NSBET) located in CIT’s Nimbus Centre.  UTRC-I specialise in building infrastructure and services, heating and air conditioning, fire and security systems and power generation and is conducting research related to whole building energy and power management to capture retrofit opportunities that scale from a single building to multiple buildings at district level.

This collaborative project creates a whole-building energy and power management technology demonstrator within the Nimbus building scalable to a district or campus level. The location of such a resource within CIT leads to curriculum development, enhanced teaching capability and tools, postgraduate-level research, and the potential for commercialisation of advanced technologies.

 Fig 1 : The SCADA Test-bed control interface

 

What the Test-bed can offer

The test bed is a strategic resource for the Institute and a platform for CIT from which it can develop new, industry-focused, research which in turn informs new curricula across the Faculty of Science and Engineering.

The facility is available to national and international commercial entities within the Energy space as an enabler to trial Research & Development work, particularly within the areas of Demand Side Management, and issues around Intermittency. The test-bed is also available for experimental work to other Higher Education institutions and researchers both nationally and internationally through European Commission funded research projects.

The operation of such a resource demonstrates CIT’s on-going public commitment to the Green Campus Initiative, providing energy savings for the Nimbus building of up to €11k per annum.

Key technologies that form the foundation of the development of this test-bed include:

  • Building demand-side energy management
  • Building supply-side (microgrid) energy management
  • Building energy diagnostics
  • Pervasive wireless sensing for low energy buildings
  • Microgrid power electronics and power control.

Each of these sub-topics has a strong demonstration component. This smart energy test-bed provides the capability to demonstrate and capture relevant data.

Demonstrating smart energy and power management

A feasibility study was undertaken to determine where to locate the microgrid infrastructure. Consequently it was determined that the Nimbus building was the most appropriate site within the CIT campus. Built in 2006 the Nimbus building houses a wide range of expertise in the field of embedded systems, the building has an open floor plan which is ideal for retrofitting power management systems and deployment of smart energy solutions.

The system includes an energy microgrid consisting of multiple non-dispatchable and dispatchable renewable energy sources, and energy storage, integrated with existing HVAC and building management systems to be installed in the demonstration building. Non dispatchable sources are renewable energy generators which produce energy in an unpredictable and variable manner. E.g. wind turbines, wave energy or photovoltaic panels (PV). Often, energy is generated when it is not required such as at night or over weekends. Developing energy management systems which have the capability to capture and store energy generated by non-dispatchable sources is currently a hot topic in energy research.

Use of non-dispatchable sources leads to savings in energy costs and a reduction in the overall use of non-renewable energy sources. Dispatchable sources are energy generators which may be switched on or off when required. Examples of these are diesel generators or combined heat and power (CHP) plants.

Benefits of the Testbed for Industry 

  • Access to diverse expertise at Nimbus from numerous areas such as energy, electronics, process control, etc. With the potential for cross pollination of ideas
  • Large facility for installing new technologies to be trialed available to private Industry and Academic institutions
  • Generation of real test data on technologies that will be made available to researchers from those fields
  • Development of more efficient technologies helping Ireland meet clean targets and have reduced energy savings
  • Potential for collaboration with other companies in the energy sector through linked projects

Future Growth

As part of a research program Nimbus has plans to expand the test-bed from the building level to campus level in conjunction with two partner companies. This program expands the existing resource to include 5-6 units of self-contained student accommodation, and a large health and leisure facility where there is a CHP plant in operation currently, and adding a further 300kW CHP within the Institute.

Nimbus will continually improve and grow the test-bed from building to campus level, and eventually to a district level resource.

Conclusion

The test-bed project establishes a critical mass of building energy, energy systems, and power systems researchers in CIT, allowing the Institute to sustain cutting edge research in the energy space.

This world-class test-bed facility in the energy space is available to both academic and industrial bodies to trial their research ideas. Nimbus, by incorporating more partners*, will grow this platform and continue research in the building energy space to create an International Sustainable Building Energy Test-bed.

*Partners are invited from both industrial and academic spheres.

 

Lead contact:

Dave Hamilton,

Nimbus Centre,

Cork Institute of Technology,

Bishopstown, Cork, Ireland.

Phone : +353 21 433 5570