Model Predictive Control of HVAC Systems: Implementation and Testing at the University of California, Merced

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A Model Predictive Control algorithm was developed for the UC Merced campus chilled water plant. Model predictive control (MPC) is an advanced control technology that has proven successful in the chemical process industry and other industries. The main goal of the research was to demonstrate the practical and commercial viability of MPC for optimization of building energy systems. The control algorithms were developed and implemented in MATLAB, allowing for rapid development, performance, and robustness assessment. The UC Merced chilled water plant includes three water-cooled chillers and a two million gallon chilled water storage tank. The tank is charged during the ... continued below

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Haves, Phillip; Hencey, Brandon; Borrell, Francesco; Elliot, John; Ma, Yudong; Coffey, Brian et al. June 29, 2010.

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A Model Predictive Control algorithm was developed for the UC Merced campus chilled water plant. Model predictive control (MPC) is an advanced control technology that has proven successful in the chemical process industry and other industries. The main goal of the research was to demonstrate the practical and commercial viability of MPC for optimization of building energy systems. The control algorithms were developed and implemented in MATLAB, allowing for rapid development, performance, and robustness assessment. The UC Merced chilled water plant includes three water-cooled chillers and a two million gallon chilled water storage tank. The tank is charged during the night to minimize on-peak electricity consumption and take advantage of the lower ambient wet bulb temperature. The control algorithms determined the optimal chilled water plant operation including chilled water supply (CHWS) temperature set-point, condenser water supply (CWS) temperature set-point and the charging start and stop times to minimize a cost function that includes energy consumption and peak electrical demand over a 3-day prediction horizon. A detailed model of the chilled water plant and simplified models of the buildings served by the plant were developed using the equation-based modeling language Modelica. Steady state models of the chillers, cooling towers and pumps were developed, based on manufacturers performance data, and calibrated using measured data collected and archived by the control system. A detailed dynamic model of the chilled water storage tank was also developed and calibrated. Simple, semi-empirical models were developed to predict the temperature and flow rate of the chilled water returning to the plant from the buildings. These models were then combined and simplified for use in a model predictive control algorithm that determines the optimal chiller start and stop times and set-points for the condenser water temperature and the chilled water supply temperature. The report describes the development and testing of the algorithm and evaluates the resulting performance, concluding with a discussion of next steps in further research. The experimental results show a small improvement in COP over the baseline policy but it is difficult to draw any strong conclusions about the energy savings potential for MPC with this system only four days of suitable experimental data were obtained once correct operation of the MPC system had been achieved. These data show an improvement in COP of 3.1% {+-} 2.2% relative to a baseline established immediately prior to the period when the MPC was run in its final form. This baseline includes control policy improvements that the plant operators learned by observing the earlier implementations of MPC, including increasing the temperature of the water supplied to the chiller condensers from the cooling towers. The process of data collection and model development, necessary for any MPC project, resulted in the team uncovering various problems with the chilled water system. Although it is difficult to quantify the energy savings resulting from these problems being remedied, they were likely on the same order as the energy savings from the MPC itself. Although the types of problems uncovered and the level of energy savings may differ significantly from other projects, some of the benefits of detecting and diagnosing problems are expected from the use of MPC for any chilled water plant. The degree of chiller loading was found to be a key factor for efficiency. It is more efficient to operate the chillers at or near full load. In order to maximize the chiller load, one would maximize the temperature difference across chillers and the chilled water flow rate through the chillers. Thus, the CHWS set-point and the chilled water flow-rate can be used to limit the chiller loading to prevent chiller surging. Since the flow rate has an upper bound and the CHWS set point has a lower bound, the chiller loading is constrained and often determined by the chilled water return temperature (CHWR). The CHWR temperature is primarily comprised of warm water from the top of the TES tank. The CHWR temperature falls substantially as the thermocline approaches the top of the tank, which reduces the chiller loading. As a result, it has been determined that overcharging the TES tank can be detrimental to the chilled water plant efficiency. The resulting MPC policy differs from the current practice of fully charging the TES tank. A heuristic rule could possible avoid this problem without using predictive control. Similarly, the COP improvements from the change in CWS set-point were largely captured by a static set-point change by the operators. Further research is required to determine how much of the MPC savings could be garnered through simplified rules (based on the MPC study), with and without prediction.

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  • Report No.: LBNL-3906E
  • Grant Number: DE-AC02-05CH11231
  • DOI: 10.2172/988177 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 988177
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc1013302

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Creation Date

  • June 29, 2010

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • Oct. 14, 2017, 8:36 a.m.

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  • Oct. 18, 2017, 10:35 a.m.

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Haves, Phillip; Hencey, Brandon; Borrell, Francesco; Elliot, John; Ma, Yudong; Coffey, Brian et al. Model Predictive Control of HVAC Systems: Implementation and Testing at the University of California, Merced, report, June 29, 2010; Berkeley, California. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1013302/: accessed June 22, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.