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URBANopt Class Project


This URBANopt™ class project was developed by researchers at the Colorado School of Mines and National Renewable Energy Laboratory. It is targeted toward educators and students, particularly in the fields of engineering and architecture to support the use of URBANopt in the classroom and teaching of district-scale energy concepts and modeling.

The project will introduce students to the objectives, tools, and methodologies of urban-scale building energy analysis. Students will build upon their knowledge of individual building energy modeling to learn the capabilities and limitations of Urban Building Energy Modeling (UBEM). Using the URBANopt platform, students will explore the synergies that may be achieved when buildings and distributed energy resources (DERs) are designed to operate interactively rather than individually.

UBEM is a complex process and cannot be satisfactorily performed “at the last minute”. Furthermore, the tools used directly within the URBANopt platform for the Class Project are “under-the-hood” energy research programs and software development kits (SDKs), not graphical user-interfaces to which most students will be accustomed. Therefore, the sequence of activities for the project is designed to get students through the software “learning curve” while simultaneously teaching key concepts related to urban-scale energy analysis.

The class project is divided into four primary activities each with various tasks. Activity 0 introduces students to key concepts related to UBEM and ensures that they have access to the necessary software tools. Activity 1 is both a tutorial on using the URBANopt™ SDK and an introduction to the concept of demand diversity. Activity 2 takes students through a simplified preliminary design process in which they will propose and evaluate various energy efficiency measures to achieve an energy objective. Activity 3 teaches students how to design distributed energy resources (DERs) using REopt™ integration in URBANopt. Students will also learn the difference between individual building and community design optimization of DERs. Through Activity 4 students understand the concept of load flexibility and will experiment with active control measures to further optimize the energy use in the community by shifting loads.

The class project includes three main documentation components: 1) a general overview of the class project that covers: objectives, timeline, project description and measures library description, 2) a student guide that details all the activities and tasks for the students and the timeline, and 3) an answer key for the instructors only. Instructors interested in utilizing the class project described below should contact Rawad El Kontar of the URBANopt development team for instructor materials (including example answer key) for the class project and related questions.

Student Learning Objectives:

After the completion of this project, students will be able to:

  1. Use URBANopt and REopt to perform urban building and DER modeling and optimization.

  2. Analyze the potential synergies of electrical and thermal load diversity within a community or district.

  3. Evaluate appropriate load flexibility and energy efficiency measures and DERs to achieve grid-interactive efficient building objectives in the community or district context.

Suggested Student Prerequisites:

Students will be best prepared to achieve the project learning objectives if they have the following prior knowledge:

  • Experience with building energy modeling

  • Knowledge of the common end-uses for energy within buildings

  • Familiarity with renewable energy systems, energy storage devices, and energy-efficiency measures

  • Basic familiarity using the command-line interface (note: guidance is provided on this throughout the documentation)

Suggested Computing Prerequisites:

  • Access to a computer over which they have administrator privileges to install the URBANopt software development kit (SDK) and command-line interface (CLI).

  • Obtain an NREL Developer API Key so that the REopt tool can be used.

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