Decentralized production in urban systems, the vision of the Institute of Energy Sciences of EPFL
In 1998, the Board of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology established the challenging vision of the 2000 W society. The goal is to reach, for Switzerland by the year 2050, an energy intensity target of 2000 Wyear/year/cap. Referring to a present intensity of 5000 W year/year/cap, this means an expected factor 4 reduction of the intensity. For the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, the challenge is to contribute to this target by its Research and Development activities. In the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), the Institute of Energy Sciences (ISE) of the School of Engineering (STI) is a group of research laboratories that has committed to contribute to this target in the field of efficient conversion and distribution of energy. Decentralised production of electricity in urban areas is one of the multidisciplinary headlight projects that has been selected to reach the 2000 W target. Decentralised production is considered as a way of producing the energy services required by a community in an integrated approach allowing for polygeneration of heating, cooling, refrigeration and electricity services. This new systemic approach requires a new vision where several networks that have to be operated simultaneously. Electricity has to be distributed through microgrids connected with the major grids. In this field, the laboratories from electrical engineering are developing new tools for the design and the operation of such grids as well as new equipments that guarantee the safe operation of the system and its power quality. The design of district heating networks and their integration with the energy services requirements is a complex task since the demands vary with the seasons, the hours of the day and are by nature stochastic due to the behavior of the inhabitants and the weather conditions. Furthermore, the profitability and the conversion efficiency of such systems mainly rely on the appropriate system design, i.e. the size of the piping and the equipments, as well as on its optimal management. Applying techniques such as thermo-economic modeling, process integration , exergy analysis and multi-objective optimisation, the Laboratory for Industrial Energy Systems (LENI) develops computer aided design methods for helping the different stakeholders (energy services companies, technology developers, final users, policy makers) in defining the most appropriate investments both from the side of the infrastructure and the energy conversion equipments and also from the optimal operation management side in order to place the technologies in the energy market context. The Laboratories of the Energy Sciences Institute also work on the development of new equipments for advanced energy conversion, such as high speed turbocompressors for heat pumping, solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC) and cogeneration concepts combining SOFC and gas turbines. Within the Institute, this advanced R&D; effort is performed in a multidisciplinary approach combining experimental work with multi-scale multi-physics computer aided design tools like CFD and optimisation.