CENTRA UAI researchers develop techniques for the intelligent management of solar energy
The project is funded by the National Research and Development Agency (ANID) and also had the participation of the companies Metric Arts EY and MiroSolar.
A study led by a research team from the UAI Center for Energy Transition, within the framework of the Fondef IDeA project “GEMA (Energy Management in Microgrids with Storage) managed to develop techniques to intelligently manage solar energy.
The project, financed by the National Research and Development Agency (ANID), had the participation of the companies Metric Arts EY and MiroSolar, the former dedicated to data science issues, while the latter is one of the national companies with more experience in the field of solar thermal and photovoltaic energy. In addition, during the development of the project, the companies Impacto Renovable, Victron Energy and Agrosuper participated in different aspects of the investigation.
Rodrigo Carrasco, director of the project, academic at the UAI Faculty of Engineering and Sciences and researcher at the Center for Energy Transition (Centra) explains that “our project successfully sought to improve the developments we have been making in recent years, which combine predictive and prescriptive analytics for the intelligent management of variable and intermittent energy when there is storage”.
The professor adds that “what we do is combine techniques that allow us to learn and predict the customer’s energy demand and the generation capacity of the solar plant, and then use those predictions to calculate optimal energy management recommendations that reduce energy costs. functioning”.
Solar energy is one of the main renewable sources to reduce the use of fossil fuels. Its main disadvantage is that it is variable (it changes throughout the day, being non-existent in the hours of darkness) and intermittent (it can disappear inadvertently), which limits its usability. On the other hand, storage systems, such as batteries, are one of the main technologies that can reduce the effects of these disadvantages, also counting on a significant reduction in their cost in the last decade.
In the opinion of Rodrigo Carrasco, “if there is no energy storage, the decisions in a solar generation system are simple: if there is excess energy, it is sold to the grid if possible, and if it is lacking, it is purchased from the grid to supply the missing demand. With the appearance of storage, there are now a large number of new options, since we can store the surplus and not sell it, and then decide when to consume what is stored. Current battery management systems typically do not take advantage of any data science or optimization tools to make their decisions, managing energy with basic policies that do not consider historical data, future forecasts, or energy costs.”
The GEMA project was developed in the midst of a pandemic (2020-2021). Rodrigo Carrasco specified that the objective of this project was to improve predictive models and connect them with more sophisticated prescriptive models in order to further improve our results. “At the same time, we hoped that this would allow us to adapt the models for other types of networks and storage systems, being able to deploy these systems in a wide variety of geographical locations and network configurations”, the researcher points out.
It should be noted that this study also contributed to developing advanced human capital, training engineers to be able to use this type of tools to apply to different types of problems.
The work carried out also made it possible to demonstrate the economic benefits and flexible solutions that can be replicated in other contexts such as power charging systems, peak charges, among others. In addition, today it has a patent that allows it to protect the intellectual property developed and that will soon be licensed to interested organizations. In this sense, the researcher assures that “we believe that what has been developed will be a contribution to improve the operation of photovoltaic systems and, with this, we will optimize the incentives for its penetration in different types of clients. The success of the project would not have been possible without a multidisciplinary vision that was achieved thanks to a variety of experiences in the team”.
As challenges, in Carrasco’s opinion, “although we have an implementation in a real solar plant, there are multiple edges that we can develop in the future. In particular, optimization opens the door to analyze different functions that not only seek to reduce costs, but also improve resilience, increase the useful life of batteries or face complex scenarios from the climatic or environmental point of view.”
In the GEMA project also participated: Tito Homem-de-Mello, academic from the UAI Business School; Gonzalo Ruz and Carlos Silva, academics from the Faculty of Engineering and Sciences UAI; and Jocelyn Olivari, Corfo researcher and Francisco Jara, professor at Diego Portales University. Benjamín Bastidas and José Luis Ortiz also participated as project engineers and Helena García, student of the Master in Engineering Sciences, Industrial mention.
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Watch the interview in Madero Minería