SKOLTECH Project: Innovative directions in development of smart heat supply systems

Project summary

At present, the situation in the field of heat supply is characterized by a set of serious problems that consist in the wear of equipment, low efficiency and reliability of heat sources and heat networks, low level of comfort in the buildings, periodic emergencies involving interruptions in heat supply to the whole communities, low technical level, and huge losses of thermal energy. The elimination of these disadvantages implies the need for changes in the construction principles of urban heat supply systems and the technologies of their operation. The market of domestic and foreign advanced energy-efficient equipment and technologies is formed and continues to develop; maintenance is provided. At the same time the methodological basis for the control of heat supply system expansion and design does not meet modern efficiency and reliability requirements imposed on the heat supply systems. Inevitable development of distributed energy generation based on unconventional and renewable energy sources and their integration into the centralized systems require that new principles of heat supply system construction be determined and intelligent systems for their control with advanced information support and telecommunications be created. In the modern environment, it is obviously necessary to switch to the formation of intelligent centralized and distributed heat supply systems with adaptive operation control and consumer’s active participation and study the specific features of modern heat supply systems typified by constant development, variability of market conditions and set of equipment, and appearance of new energy-efficient technologies, including renewable energy sources. Consequently, the problem of developing the corresponding methods and approaches to the creation of intelligent heat supply systems is rather topical from both theoretical and practical viewpoints.

The project is aimed at the development of the methods and approaches to making heat supply systems intelligent, which will allow modern heat supply systems to reach a totally new technical, technological, information, and control level of development and operation. The achievement of the goal set in the submitted Project involves developing the corresponding technical solutions for the system structure, topology, configuration, and set of components; the principles of constructing the intelligent means for the heat supply system operation control; and the information technologies that provide the intelligent basis for the design of such systems, their creation, and efficient functioning.

One of the important aspects of research here is the application of the methods, and approaches obtained within the framework of the Project in order to offer suggestions about the technical measures in terms of the unit commitment and the individual characteristics of the studied heat supply systems in real residential areas.


The project objective consists in the development of methods and approaches to making heat supply systems intelligent.

To meet this objective, the following tasks are set in the project:

  • Development of technical solutions for the system structure, topology, configuration, and set of components.

  • Development of principles and schemes for the integration of distributed generation into centralized systems.

  • Development of the models of intelligent heat supply systems.

  • Development of the methods for calculating and optimizing intelligent heat supply systems.

  • Development of information technologies that provide the intelligent basis for the system design.

  • Testing of the developed methods and adoption of the obtained suggestions for technical measures to create an intelligent system for heat supply to a real community.

Project Description

The project suggests solving a topical problem that consists in the development of methods and approaches to making heat supply systems intelligent. The intelligent heat supply system implies the integration of conventional and unconventional subsystems and technological processes with new communication technologies. Apart from the broad capabilities of information technologies, great attention is paid to the promising energy technologies such as cogeneration, heat pumps, renewable energy sources (e.g. wind, sun, and biotechnologies), etc.

One of the aspects of the problem of creating intelligent centralized and distributed heat supply systems is connected to solving the problem of heat supply expansion planning and zoning of the territory. Up to now, the issues of dividing the urban area into zones for centralized and decentralized heat supply, conversion to gas supply or electric heating have not been raised and tackled. To solve the stated problem, we will develop a mathematical model and a methodological approach oriented towards the current conditions of heat supply system development.

The transformation of Russia’s heat power industry was accompanied by the restructuring of generating facilities, transport system, and thermal energy consumption, which led to the formation of the decentralized system for heat supply system control. As a result, there appeared different owners of the facilities, who protected their own interests in making a profit. However, the continuous production process and the interconnected heat production, distribution, and consumption technologies require that the technical control of the systems and rational division of the task of heat production among different heat sources be performed simultaneously, and that heat be subsequently transferred through heat networks. Thus, there arise new problems of optimal heat supply system operation control in the competitive environment with different models of the heat market. Here, it is necessary to take account of the formed structure of the systems and be oriented towards the transformation of heat supply to an efficient sector of the country’s economy. To solve these problems, the models of heat supply system operation are formed, which reflect the specific features of relationships of the heat market participants and fully consider physical and technical parameters of the systems. The developed mathematical models will be based on effective game theory approaches, methods of multilevel heat supply system modeling, and methods of the hydraulic circuit theory.

Another important problem of modern heat supply systems is the relatively low reliability of heat supply to consumers. In the course of development, an increase in the number of heat consumers and in the size of heat sources led to the formation of large-scale heat supply systems capable of transferring heat to a distance of several tens of kilometers, which have complex multi-loop schemes of heat networks. This brought about serious problems related to ensuring the operation reliability of such systems. The integration of a large number of heat sources for joint operation within the unified heat supply system makes it more necessary to solve the problems of analyzing and ensuring the reliability of heat supply to consumers, since on the one hand, it creates additional conditions to provide structural reserve in the system, and on the other hand – it complicates the emergency control in heat networks. To comprehensively address the issues of providing and assessing the reliability of heat supply to consumers, a solution should be found to the problems of meeting the heat supply reliability requirements for heat sources, which is particularly important under severe weather conditions, where the calculated fuel reserve and supply should ensure the required heat output. The suggested methods and models of analyzing the reliability of heat supply system operation are based on the system approach to heat supply reliability assessment, where all the stages of fuel production and supply, and heat production and distribution are considered together. These methods and models are oriented to the nodal method, which is being developed at Energy Systems Institute SB RAS in order to calculate the reliability indices in terms of individual characteristics of each consumer. The methodological basis of the suggested approach includes the models of the hydraulic circuit theory, Markov models of random processes, and methods of statistical tests related to the specific features of heat supply systems. The determined qualitative reliability indices make it possible to assess the resultant impact of all the heat supply system components and external factors on the reliability of heat supply to each consumer, which in turn allows us to define the least reliable nodes in the system and ensure efficient backup for the heat supply system.

The transition to intelligent heat supply systems requires that operation, design, and implementation of technical solutions be reconciled. The problem of expansion of modern heat supply systems is connected to the coordination of a set of subproblems and aimed at the determination of optimal technical parameters of the system, which satisfy the requirements for energy efficiency, cost effectiveness, and reliability and ensure the use of rational ways of their reconstruction, expansion, and modernization. The methods of solving this problem are more comprehensively considered within the hydraulic circuit theory and represent a generalization and implementation of the accumulated experience in design, reconstruction, and development of real heat supply systems. The mathematical basis for solving the set problems is provided by the methods of dynamic programming and multi-loop optimization.

The aforementioned problems can be efficiently solved only on the basis of the methods of mathematical modeling of heat supply systems that makes it possible to obtain integrated and optimal solutions and develop specific suggestions for the technical measures to construct intelligent centralized and distributed heat supply systems. The suggestions about the technical measures should be developed and adopted in terms of the modern requirements for efficiency and reliability, including the requirements imposed by the law “On heat supply” and the requirements for the schemes of heat supply.

The developed methodology will be applied to generate proposals on technical measures to improve the heat supply system of Irkutsk in close cooperation with the JSC “Irkutskenergo”, the owner of the heat supply system (cogeneration plants, boiler plants and heat networks) of Irkutsk.

Expected results

  1. General methodological recommendations on the selection of the system structure, topology, configuration and set of components.
  2. Methodological principles of constructing the scheme of integration of distributed generation into centralized systems.
  3. Models of heat supply system construction adapted to intelligent control.
  4. Methods of calculating and optimizing intelligent heat supply systems.
  5. An overview of modern information technologies that provide the intelligent basis for system design.
Suggestions about the technical measures, which are based on the recommendations obtained through the application of the developed methods.


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