by Kevin Tidmarsh
A new project created by scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology might just put Boston on the way to becoming a more energy-efficient city. The tool, which can estimate the gas and electricity demand of each of the roughly 100,000 buildings in the city for every hour of every day of the year, was developed by researchers at MIT’s Sustainable Design Lab and Lincoln Laboratory, along with members of the Boston Redevelopment Authority, and aims to provide a comprehensive database of the city’s buildings and their energy and heat usage that can be provided to energy policy makers.
According to a press release from MIT News [http://news.mit.edu/2016/mit-researchers-create-citywide-building-energy-model-boston-0222], the model aims to help city officials and other stakeholders in the city “better understand the potential for community energy solutions and to identify specific project opportunities that could lower costs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and make Boston’s energy system more resilient.” When city officials are able to gather information about energy and heating fuel usage in their city, the researchers claim, they will be able to adjust energy policy to better fit supply and demand. One of the model’s developers, Carlos Cerezo, said in the press release that an example of the potential use of the model is if one building consumes a high amount of electricity during a certain hour, then it can be surrounded by buildings that can use the waste heat from the building. It can also be used to find opportunities for energy savings when buildings are using lower amounts of energy than normal.
As of yet, the effectiveness of this model is still unproven, with Boston serving as the pilot city. If it succeeds there, then the researchers will look into expanding their work to other cities, with the ultimate (and lofty) goal of having a similar program in every city across the world (although the team will have to adapt their building classifications across different regions and climate zones). But the researchers claim that their tool can be adapted to other cities in the Northeast with similar building practices, so it’ll be interesting to see where local governments take it from here.