Ubiquitous sensors, monitors, and instrumentation today provide a torrent of information that can make smart buildings smarter. But how can this deluge of data from multiple sources be used to deliver advanced lighting control strategies — and save both energy and money? Sophisticated algorithms are the mathematical muscle that will forge these information streams into seamlessly effective control systems.
Innovation in Information Technology
To be truly "smart", our electricity grid will need to exchange information continually with buildings where energy-consumers live and work. With the aid of a UC Berkeley building outfitted as a test bed, researchers are addressing the challenges of building-to-grid communication and drawing up the research-and-development roadmap for meeting them.
Based on the radical idea that building heating ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) controls might be better designed around occupants and occupant-based technologies (as opposed to the traditional rigid engineering of conditions in building spaces to be consistent with comfort "norms"), this "Changing the Rules" research represents a paradigm shift synthesizing recent innovations and technology advances, with the potential for deep reductions in energy use and greater occupant satisfaction.
Reducing our carbon footprints, as individuals and communities, can curb climate change. But which actions make the biggest impact? As it turns out, the answer is different for each of us, depending on where and how we live. By measuring our own carbon footprint with an easy-to-use online tool, we can make better choices and tread more lightly on the planet.
To meet our targets for cleaner, more secure energy, our supply increasingly comes from multiple, distributed sources. At the same time, electric vehicles and other green innovations are reshaping consumer demand for electricity. How do these untested variables in supply and demand affect distribution, the final step in delivering electricity to consumers? This under-studied issue is now getting its due.
Engineers have long used instrumentation to monitor the health and safety of structures like bridges and dams — and, today, wind turbines and other critical components of our expanding energy system. With amazing advances in a range of technologies, researchers are developing a nanotube coating for turbine blades and towers to structural sense strain, and alert operators to impending problems.
Smart buildings are one thing, but UC Berkeley’s Sutardja Dai Hal is a very smart building. Intensively metered, it’s the perfect setting for testing networks of sensors, demand-response capabilities, and the comfort level of occupants as they go about their work. This broad partnership will test new technologies and pinpoint the best ways to make a smart building even smarter.
Cleaner fuels and more efficient vehicles alone won’t meet our ambitious goals for reduced carbon emissions. We’ll need to drive less — up to 40% less. How do we manage that in our car-reliant cities? Innovative transportation planning is the answer. Data on our cities, even our blocks, is abundant, but making it accessible for planning is a key to sustainable city development.
Our electric grid is remarkably robust, but the next big storm or calamity can still bring costly, disruptive power outages. An entirely new way to monitor the flow of electricity through the grid is giving us deeper insight into its operating state - knowledge that can diminish outages and increase stability. A new instrument, called a micro-synchrophasor, puts a whole new twist on visibility of the the grid.
With consumption of natural gas on the rise in California, the safety of the vast network of pipelines that deliver it is paramount. How can we ensure robust, thorough, and comprehensive inspection of these vital pipelines? Next-generation, low-cost sensors will step-up our ability to make pipeline inspection more widespread, frequent, and useful over time.
Large buildings today benefit from automation systems that enable energy-efficient operations. However, more than half of commercial buildings in the U.S. are smaller-sized, with less sophisticated infrastructure and varied uses and operations. An easy-to-use, easy-to-adapt automation system for these buildings, built on an open-source IT platform, will have a far-reaching impact on America’s energy efficiency.
As devices like sensors get smaller and smaller and require increasingly less power to operate, a clear need logically arises: a micro-battery to make them run. Challenges abound, however. How do you fabricate a battery no thicker than a few human hairs? How do you build it into an equally tiny device? A printable, rechargeable micro-power innovation is the answer.
The consumer is key to an energy-efficient future. Today, 87% of U.S. homes are air conditioned, 50 million have three or more TVs, and home electronics and appliances are proliferating. Even with efficiency on the rise, managing the mounting electrical load in our homes — and educating residents about energy use — is critical.
Thousands of miles of underground cables convey electric power to consumers. However, a little-understood problem threatens that delivery system: high-voltage cables can perform well for decades and then suddenly fail, in the flash of a dramatic, nanosecond-long arc. Work is under way to understand this phenomenon and develop an intelligent infrastructure to monitor cable health and prioritize replacement.
Today wireless sensors and other instrumentation are everywhere, relaying prolific streams of physical data about our world. But how do we merge those disparate streams into a river of useful data to model and optimize energy systems? sMAP is a web service that provides a simple efficient way to represent physical data, publish and exchange it, and put it to work for us.
The federal government is investing heavily in smart-grid research across the country. Is that investment paying off? This effort developed a methodology to track the progress and assess the results of this many-pronged research effort. The approach aimed at gauging the return on our federal investment and keeping a robust research agenda focused on smart-grid solutions.
A building is indeed a machine, defined by its physical structure but also by the software that makes it run. Its functionality, like that of any machine, is magnified if its software can be programmed, upgraded, and reimagined. A logical, agile software infrastructure can provide that programmability, and allow communities of buildings to cooperate with each other and with the energy grid.
There’s no place like home, and i4Energy researchers know it, turning their own new building into a laboratory for leading-edge demand response approaches. Sutardja Dai Hall is CITRIS headquarters on the UC Berkeley campus. The goal: to develop intelligent control for its electricity load, and reduce peak demand by at least 30%.
Developing our electricity grid to meet the needs of the future is a tricky business. Which series of investments will truly pay off to give us reliable, cost-effective, low-carbon electricity? SWITCH is an open-source model that allows planners to explore generation, transmission, and storage options for the upcoming decades. SWITCH is a tool we need in order to optimize our energy decisions along the road to the future’s electricity grid.
The vast, centralized electricity grid once served customers everywhere, regardless of local needs, concerns, and goals. Today that’s changing fast, as communities of power users look to develop small-scale grids that can meet their specific energy demands and easily integrate renewable resources. Testing and analyzing how these microgrids will work is a critical gateway to their implementation.
When California set out to build an entirely new University of California campus in Merced in 1999, opportunity knocked for energy experts. New buildings of every kind would rise from the vast, empty tract of San Joaquin Valley land — housing, classrooms, high-tech labs, and more. The chance to envision something bold, to plan energy-efficiency into every detail, was unparalleled.