Capacity building in Smart and Innovative eNERGY management

During the summer visit of NUIG researchers in Belgrade, a tentative plan was made for IMP young researchers to visit NUIG during the early or late fall of 2023 before the project comes to an end thus making the most use of the opportunity provided by the SINERGY project. With this unique opportunity in mind, the visit was scheduled for the final week of November 2023 as a 5-day-long stay in Galway, Ireland, as presented in the Figure below. 

Initial agenda for the Galway visit in late November, 2023

Overall, the Agenda proposal outlines 4 key activities. The first one was an on-sight visit to the National University of Ireland, Galway, now named only University of Galway. This visit included first a meeting in one of the university’s conference rooms followed by a guided tour of several energy-related facilities that power buildings in the university’s campus. Days 2 and 3 were reserved for a visit to a nearby Aran Islands archipelago, concretely Inis Mor island where several facilities like private homes, commercial buildings and some industry facilities were the subject of recent renewable installation (photovoltaic arrays, batteries and heat pumps) on which IMP and NUIG collaborated to bring novel control concepts that allow for remote management with the goal of achieving self-sustainable island communities.

After coming back from the Aran Islands, the meetings continued with a visit to Boston Scientific factory and office space located just outside of Galway where NUIG have been actively, and for several years, working on improving energy efficiency of HVAC systems as well as design processes. Finally, the meeting was to conclude with a visit to Insight Institute, affiliated with the University of Galway, and focusing on various AI applications, in line with the main workflow of IMP researchers.

Once the dates were fixed, the team from IMP comprised of Dea Jelić (formerly Pujić) and Marko Jelić, two researchers with several years of experience, has undertaken the necessary administrative tasks (primarily visa acquisition for Ireland) and arrived in Galway on November 26th, in time for the meeting, in spite of some uncertainty regarding the visa approval timeline.

Day 1 - Visit to NUIG facilities

The first day of the visit started with a set of presentations by the NUIG staff. First in the line was Luis Miguel Blanes Restoy who introduced the healthy/sick building concept and presenting the WELL standard (https://www.wellcertified.com) for building certification that was designed to establish a necessary level and drive improvements in several concepts such as air and water quality, movement, nourishment, sound propagation, etc. Several practical examples from Serbia as well as general concerns were also discussed. Several aspects that were considered when the NUIG’s Alice Perry building was designed were also mentioned.

Following this, Raquel Lima, currently working on her Ph.D. at the University of Galway, presented her research into user-integrated energy management frameworks. Concretely, her presentation summarized various survey results particularly concerning user perspectives and the way various organizations handle energy management systems.

Afterwards, Luis Miguel Blanes Restoy returned as presenter to showcase the building management system (often abbreviated as BMS) that is actively in use in the Alice Perry building. Several challenges were discussed in terms of building automation and the necessary labor force that is needed to make full use of such a system. Since the system collects a lot of data, it was noted how a person must be fully dedicated to monitoring the building status and measurements in order to provide timely reactions. However, as this is a mundane task, the willingness to commit to such work is rarely expected.

Alice Perry building’s BMS system presentation

Once the presentation slot had concluded, the group started a tour of the energy infrastructure powering the Alice Perry building, previously discussed and visualized in the BMS system. The first stop on this tour was the ground level facility containing gas boilers and a combined heat and power (CPH, diesel engine) plant, assisted by NUIG staff working daily on maintaining these devices. Following this, the group continued to the roof of the Alice Perry building where several PV installations, solar thermal collectors (STCs), air handling units (AHUs) and air-source heat exchangers (AHXs, dry coolers) are located.

The tour of the energy infrastructure continued with a presentation of the two heat pump systems making use of ground energy via a set of boreholes located outside Alice Perry building, at a nearby field next to the basketball court. The heat pump installation is, conveniently, following the same design principles for the rest of the building, uncovered in order to serve as an educational tool. This concept entails that several key building features such as constructional elements, foundations, rebar, etc., shown in key places outlining how the building setup is designed and built.

The presentations were followed by a brief stop to a celebration of newly graduated MSc students at NUIG’s Computer Science department that was, by chance, on the same day as this visit, with a lunch break afterwards. After the lunch break, the visit continued with a tour of the Mathematics building at NUIG with commentary from Luis Miguel Blanes Restoy regarding the various architectural aspects of that building, as well as other campus facilities that were along the way. A particular focus was placed on the building's energy system and HVAC system layout. The tour finished with a visit to the top floor that houses the HP installation along with another PV panel array and an air-source heat exchanger, connected to the heat pump, and further to radiators in individual offices. Also, several wireless monitoring devices such as temperature and humidity sensors were mentioned as they feed the necessary data to the BMS system. 

Day 2 - Aran Islands visit (day one)

The second day of the visit was reserved for a trip to Inis Mor, the largest of the Aran Islands. The island is accessible from Galway via a relatively short ferry boat ride. The ferry operates in different ways in summer and winter, taking different routes. Since the visit occurred during the winter season, a bus first takes passengers from the center of Galway to Rossaveal which takes about 45 minutes, followed by a ferry boat ride of a similar length.

The four-person party from NUIG and IMP met up with Cathy Ni Ghoill who greeted the group on behalf of the Inis Mor community office. The first facility that was visited was the community hall near the port where the team took a look at the renewable installation powered by a PV array and containing an inverter and set of batteries, while also discussing the ways in which the building serves the community, as reflected in the energy demand profile.

After a brief stop at the local catholic church, the visit continued in the community offices where the team discussed, in general, the impacts that recent projects bringing renewables and more advanced control systems had on the local community, residents’ lives and their daily habits. Also, particular focus had been placed on the achieved savings and how the systems can be maintained to ensure no interruptions to its operation. Afterwards, the team discussed the local heat pump installation powered by Mitsubishi Electric and analyzed the control workflow that was designed to govern the way these devices operate and provide heat even in cold winter days in Aran.