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Sustainable Building Initiative (SBI)

A graphic showing the concept for a DC-based renewable energy powered system

CPES at Virginia Tech is developing a DC-based renewable energy powered system as a testbed for future sustainable home electric power system. Much of the IPEM-based technology developed by CPES will be utilized to enable innovative engineering solutions for critical residential applications. Major features that distinguish the operation of the proposed electrical system in comparison to today's home energy system include:

  • Renewable energy generation (e.g., solar systems, wind)
  • Local fuel-based energy generation (e.g., micro-CHP systems)
  • EV/Plug-in hybrid generation/charging/storage
  • Bidirectional connection to the grid that allows energy trading
  • Ability to continue operating in islanded mode and thus ride-through most grid outages
  • Responsive illumination control (e.g., LEDs, CFLs)
  • Process-optimized appliance operation control (air, water, HVAC, …)
  • Sensor, monitoring, and control network (wired or wireless) for energy sources, appliance, lighting, and process energy management; wired or wireless

The testbed will contain various energy sources, including a 3.5kW turbine generator, a 5kW PV solar panels, lithium-ion battery bank for energy storage, a plug-in hybrid car with bidirectional energy flow. The electrical system has two DC buses: a high-voltage DC bus and a low-voltage DC bus. The high-voltage bus is operated at ~300V, powering HVAC, simulated kitchen loads, and other major appliances. The low-voltage bus is chosen to be at 48V to coincide with the standard telecom voltage, powering computer loads and LED lighting. The whole system is connected to the utility grid via a bidirectional DC/AC converter.

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