The first field application of a low-cost MPC for grid-interactive K-12 schools: Lessons-learned and savings assessment

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Journal Article

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K-12 schools are the largest energy consumers in the public sector, with their HVAC energy consumption representing the largest portion of their total energy use. While transitioning these schools to grid-interactive HVAC system operation through advanced controls offers significant financial and environmental benefits, and model predictive control (MPC) has been identified as a promising solution to achieve that, very few MPCs are affordable and have been deployed in K-12 schools. This situation raises concerns about the unclear real-world benefits of MPC technology among facility managers and industries. To address this gap, this paper presents a low-cost MPC solution that requires minimal control infrastructure costs and a unique field demonstration at a K-12 school, conducted for both cooling and heating seasons. This work adopted a previously developed MPC and extended it for use in the school application. The MPC aims to coordinate multiple packaged units to eliminate unnecessary peaks and shift cooling or heating loads in response to grid signals based on load conditions, while maintaining thermostat temperatures within school-defined bounds. Throughout the field tests, the MPC achieved a 24% reduction in peak demand during the cooling season and shifted cooling or heating loads by up to 16% in response to the school’s utility tariff, considering load conditions, while also allowing end-users to override thermostat setpoints. The paper also discusses the limitations of this study and future research directions for better performance of the MPC at K-12 schools.


Energy and Buildings



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