Distributed Control of Energy Systems Laboratory

A sustainable energy future requires intelligent use of resources. Main sources of energy consumption, such as buildings and transportation, need to be made more efficient without making them more expensive. Green but volatile sources of energy generation, such as solar and wind, have to be coordinated with flexible demand, batteries, and conventional generators. This complex networked system has to be reliable, secure, and resilient to failures. We are developing the decision making algorithms, design tools, and IoT devices needed to make this vision become reality.

Distributed control in smart grids

The power grid is a large interconnected system, and is increasing in complexity every day. Apart from the thousands of conventional generators, millions of smaller energy resources - solar panels, batteries, EVs, smart consumer loads - have to be controlled to ensure stable and reliable operation. The control action for each of these agents must be locally computed. How do you design control algorithms for a large networked systems with provable performance guarantee?

Energy efficiency: reducing buildings' energy use through algorithms

Buildings consume 75% of electricity and account for 33% of CO2 emissions in the USA. We are developing control algorithms to fix this problem: the algorithms will continuously change setpoints of heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems to reduce energy use while improving indoor climate.

Renewable energy: smart buildings as "virtual batteries" for absorbing solar and wind volatility

Due to the thermal inertia of buildings, the electricity demand of their HVAC systems can be varied within limits without affecting their indoor climate. From the point of view of the power grid, this variation is the same as the charging and discharging of a battery. The same game can be played with almost every electric load. The resulting VES (virtual energy storage) potential of all these loads is huge. It is also a lot cheaper than a real battery of the same size.

Youtube video on virtual energy storage from smart loads and the role of distributed control.