Energy Opticon’s new software tool helps energy producers optimize the temperature and operation of district heating networks. The result is economical savings, reduced wear and environmental advantage.

”The energy industry is changing rapidly at the moment, and new challenges emerge all the time. Low electricity prices and increased competition has made it more difficult for combined power and heating producers to stay profitable”, says Moa Dahlman Truesdale, Chief Financial Officer at Energy Opticon.

”We have developed a new method for economical optimization of the forward temperature in the district heating network, that saves money and creates new opportunities for the energy companies”.

Renewable energy breakthrough changes the playing field

”More renewable energy combined with low electricity prices has brought new challenges for energy producers. Economical optimization saves money and reduces environmental impact”, says Moa Dahlman Truesdale, Energy Opticon. Photo: T. Brorson.

”The renewable energy breakthrough has made it difficult for combined power and heating plants to make a profit from their electricity production, and has brought more complex operational disturbances. Price markups is not an option considering the number of producers on the market. To handle this situation, the energy producers need software tools to improve production planning”, Moa Dahlman Truesdale says.

”There is need for a tool that works with a total economical optimization of an entire energy system, that handles the performance of the district heating networks as a heat accumulator and that takes transmission constraints and bottlenecks into account. It also has to account for heat losses in the network. In order to reduce carbon dioxide emissions according to the national targets, the tool should contribute to better resource management. One example is to optimize turbine efficiency for the district heating water’s forward temperature”.

”The system optimizes the entire energy system, from the combined power and heat production to the end users, in order to simultaneously reduce greenhouse gas emissions and minimize costs. With better control of district heating temperatures, the peaking plants can be operated more efficiently. The share of solar and wind power is increasing, which causes the supplied power to fluctuate more. Peaking power is a necessity, and district heating systems are going to play an important supporting part alongside renewable energy power plants”, Moa says.

A new tool for district heating optimization

Energy Opticon has developed a brand new software tool – the Smart Optima Heat Network – for total economical optimization of district heating networks and forward temperature. The project is supported by Vinnova and SweHeat, and tests have been performed at energy producing companies (e.g. Mälarenergi). The new computational model takes the district heating network’s heat accumulation and temperature dependance into account, and can help make energy production more flexible.

”A district heating network will occasionally experience peak demand – such as mornings with cold weather, when low outdoor temperatures coincide with high demand for hot water. Traditionally, energy producers have met the high demand by temporarily dispatching peaker plants that burn fossil fuels. These dispatches can be avoided entirely when the forward temperature is optimized, by feeding the network preemptively with hotter water in an earlier stage. The system takes advantage of the natural time delay of temperature propagation, working with the dynamics of the network instead of against it. Less fossil fuel is required, and operation becomes more cost-efficient”, Moa Dahlman Truesdale says.

”Another benefit is that the network capacity can be increased. A network with long conduits is often limited by the capacity of the hot water pumps, resulting in heat from a certain boiler being unable to reach the entire network. This is often mitigated by starting up peak boilers, driving up cost and emissions”.

”The new module has been installed at Mälarenergi in Västerås, operator of the fourth largest district heating network in the country. Every year, the facility produces 1 700 GWh of heating, 700 GWh of electricity, and 30 GWh of remote cooling. Preliminary figures indicate that the new functions save 1.5 percent on the variable cost of operation – on top of the savings already provided by the existing optimizations. The optimized forward temperature also reduces water flow fluctuations, resulting in fewer start-ups and stops of production units and easier operation. According to the preliminary report, a lot of the savings come from avoided fossil fuel use. The environmental and the economical advantage happens in tandem”, Moa Dahlman Truesdale concludes.

Read more about Energy Opticon in the article “A prestigious environmental award for Energy Opticon“.

The article was published in November 2017.