As media coverage has shown over the past year, energy security and reliability are not guaranteed constants. Renewable and sustainable energy sources are becoming more critical components of modern power systems. However, efficient and flexible power usage by homes and businesses can be just as strategic.
VIOTAS is working with a multi-disciplinary group composed of ten European partners to develop new ground-breaking smart buildings technologies. These technologies will enable building owners to achieve significant energy savings and receive additional revenue from participating in grid services. And one Irish business, Country Crest, is key to this research.
The ten partners, spanning four countries (Ireland, Italy, France, UK), are collaborating on an innovative and impactful project to revolutionise building energy efficiency & flexibility through IoT big data and advanced analytics. iBECOME (“intelligent Building Energy Assets Control for Comfort, Energy and Flexibility Optimisation) is a €3.7 million project funded by the EU Horizon 2020 programme running from 2020-2024.
The main motivation behind iBECOME is to address the inefficiencies of existing buildings and facilities, either because of underperforming existing BMS (building management systems) or because they are small enough not to be equipped with a BMS. In such buildings, the deployment of the iBECOME solution will allow essential energy savings and comfort improvements at very low cost, but also provide the ability to tap into the emerging markets of flexibility services (e.g. demand response).
- We spend 90% of our time inside a building
- More than 40% of energy is used in buildings
- Roughly 75% of our existing building stock is energy inefficient
- Lack of intelligence and interconnectivity in existing buildings
iBECOME will enable changes to be made to existing infrastructure and buildings, negating the need to build new power plants, or import increasingly expensive fossil fuels. In January 2023, the developed technology has been rolled out in four diverse sites across Europe, including Country Crest’s food production facility in Dublin. Country Crest was chosen to participate due to the complex nature of their site. If iBECOME technology can work here, it should be suitable for a large variety of other manufacturing sites.
Country Crest’s Participation
Country Crest Group is an integrated food business located north of Dublin city in Lusk. One side of the business operates a storage and packing facility for fresh potatoes and onions to supply to the retail sector. This includes onsite temperature controlled warm stores and refrigerated stores.
Already having a longstanding relationship with VIOTAS, Country Crest were confident in the opportunities being presented by VIOTAS which led to them taking part in the iBECOME project. Irish Manufacturing Research (IMR), also an iBECOME partner, visited their Dublin site and assessed areas to consider for energy saving, automation and control. The area of most potential identified was the warmup process potatoes go through from the fridges to the packhouse. Traditionally, this process was manually controlled, with heating applied to the warmup area by the packhouse manager and primarily based on outside weather temperatures at any one time. If the outside temperature was thought to be below 5 degrees for example, the burners would be manually switched on to ensure enough heat to bring the stored potatoes from 2 degrees to 10 degrees – the temperature needed in the packhouse to not bruise the crop. This decision to heat was very much a human process, relying on the knowledge and experience of operators of when and how to apply heat to the crop. The iBECOME project undertook to investigate how to best automate this decision-making process.
Thermostats, sensors and relevant controls were put in place. The burners are now controlled automatically based on data which is fed back through the sensors, through pre-determined parameters. The long-term outcome will be significant energy savings, as burners only come on when needed and do not overrun, switching off automatically as conditions change.
John Hagan, Group Purchasing Manager, Country Crest said:
“It is great to be involved in a project like iBECOME. As a food company which delivers ‘field to fork’ solutions for our customers, environmental sustainability is always a priority. We always push the boundaries to see where the next opportunity is to become more efficient and more sustainable. The opportunity to network with the iBECOME Irish partners to deliver these goals has been immense for our business. The future of environmental impact savings lies in the autonomous collection, control and processing of data.”
Other European Sites Participating
The other participating sites include The World Trade Centre in Grenoble, The Helix office building in Glasgow, and A.S.P. Della Carnia in Udine, a residential care facility for the elderly and disabled. All of the sites have their own unique challenges and objectives. The goal is to hone the technology to be able to cater for a broad spectrum of existing buildings.
The iBECOME project offers a paradigm shift for energy efficiency & flexibility in buildings, by utilising IoT big data and advanced analytics, enabling the next generation of smart energy services for a smarter smart grid. Implementation of the iBECOME platform will help penetrate demand flexibility into the services and tertiary sectors while enabling the building owner to achieve energy savings and receive additional revenue from participating in grid services.
With the shadow of future energy crises always there and the security of Europe’s energy under threat, projects like iBECOME are a much-needed step towards energy independence for Ireland and Europe alike.