US researchers model urban energy use

A team of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US has developed a new tool for modelling urban buildings’ energy use.

The researchers say the tool, which is being used in a study of decentralized energy potential for the city of Boston, estimates the 24/7 gas and electricity demand of every building in the city for one year.

‘Nobody has ever modelled a city the size of Boston at this level of detail,’ Christoph Reinhart, associate professor of architecture at MIT, said in a news release from the university. ‘It’s also the first time that these data are being used by a city to guide energy policy decisions.’

Boston’s Community Energy Study explores the potential for local energy generation, district energy and microgrids. The researchers said they have identified sites around the city where a combination of combined heat and power (CHP), on-site solar photovoltaics (PV), battery energy storage and ground-source heat pumps could reduce both emissions and energy costs.

Carlos Cerezo, a PhD student in the Building Technology programme, explained: ‘If you have a building consuming a lot of electricity at certain hours, you need buildings around them that can use that waste heat. Our model is built for figuring out where those things happen.’

‘Ultimately, our goal is for every city in the world to rely on a citywide energy model to meaningfully manage its future energy supply and carbon emissions,’ Reinhart added.

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