AlphaBuilding ResCommunity: A multi-agent virtual testbed for community-level load coordination
Training and validating algorithms in a simulation testbed can accelerate research and applications of optimal control of residential loads to improve energy flexibility and grid resilience. We developed an open-source simulation environment, AlphaBuilding ResCommunity, that can be used to train and validate algorithms to control a single thermostatically controlled load (TCL) or coordinate a group of TCLs. We used reduced-order models to simulate the thermodynamics of TCLs, and the parameter values were determined from the connected smart thermostat data of real households. The environment was built upon the standardized OpenAI Gym interface. Ancillary functions, such as retrieving the parameters and weather forecasts, are provided to facilitate control strategies that require predictive information. Compared with existing efforts, AlphaBuilding ResCommunity has three advantages: (1) more realistic model settings because the parameter values are identified from actual household operating data, and modelling and measurement uncertainty are considered; (2) passive thermal storage control; and (3) ease of use due to a simple software dependency and standardized interface. We demonstrated the applications of the environment by implementing a Kalman Filter and Model Predictive Control on a single TCL and a Priority-Stack-Based Control and Alternating Direction Method of Multipliers to coordinate multiple TCLs for load tracking.