Research on efficient use of renewable energy

Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI) in Amsterdam has started a large multidisciplinary project exploring the efficient use of renewable energy sources. In the project ‘Computational Energy Systems’, scientists from various disciplines conduct basic fundamental research about our future energy grid.

Publication date: 03-05-2010




Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI) in Amsterdam has started a large multidisciplinary project exploring the efficient use of renewable energy sources. In the project ‘Computational Energy Systems’, scientists from various disciplines conduct basic fundamental research about our future energy grid. The research project was designed in collaboration with Keuring Elektrotechnische Materialen Arnhem (KEMA). Results from the research can be utilized by governments, policy makers, network providers and energy suppliers.

The future of our energy supply is uncertain. When will a massive switch to green energy be necessary? How do we integrate alternative energy flows smoothly into our current network? And when is the optimal time to turn on our washing machines? Do we decide this for ourselves or will a software agent decide the right moment? Scientists from the CWI examine sustainable energy issues in logistics, production, distribution and consumption. The research focuses on the calculation of the transition to alternative energy sources, distribution within the electrical network in the presence of uncertainties in decentralized supply and storage, the development of smart grids and the degree to which smart buildings can contribute to saving energy.

One aspect of the research is the development of a mathematical model that as accurately as possible accounts the impact of global warming. It focuses on defining and modeling uncertainties. By modeling uncertainties mathematically it becomes clear what the limitations are and at what point it becomes critical to turn to alternative energy sources. A massive switch to renewable energy will affect the distribution of electricity. Decentralized energy production causes two-way traffic on the net, fluctuations in the energy supply (for example wind speed is not constant) and overcapacity. This can cause problems and to leading to risks of overloads. CWI develops software that enables an analysis of the network which takes all of these factors into account.

Matching energy supply and demand is essential for a stable energy supplying the future. Research in the CES-project focuses on the development of smart grids and smart energy networks that are optimal for consumer and producer. The role of intelligent and decentralized ICT is central: software agents decide over capacity questions in supply and demand, anticipate based on predictions and make smart decisions under fluctuating prices. Connected to this research are developments in energy savings.  By equipping buildings with sensors, the electric power supply can be automatically adjusted to our day- and nighttime rhythms. At the same time, the maintenance of smart buildings is both extensive and expensive. By connecting the sensors in the building mains to existing systems in the infrastructure (electricity or water lines) enormous benefits could be gained.

Modeling, simulation, decentralized ICT systems, and sensor networks are increasingly important in scientific research. Using these tools mathematics and computer science have established their place in earth and life sciences, society logistics, and software services. Within its research projects CWI stimulates collaborations between different disciplines so that knowledge can be widely employed. Broad research as described here is a good example of this.