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Smart delivery of Manchester’s Triangulum project

30 April 2020

Expectations around the application of technology to create smart networks have continued to grow over the last few years, particularly through the development and greater awareness of the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI).

This remains a conceptual idea in many cases, however, with little guidance on how to overcome the practicalities of introducing the relevant technologies within all types and ages of facilities to create smart cities.

Considerable progress on this front has been provided by the successful completion of the Triangulum project in Manchester earlier this year and the ongoing analysis of this will provide valuable support in achieving the city’s and the UK’s net zero carbon ambitions.

Triangulum is an EU Horizon 2020 project that aims to determine the best options for creating cities fit for the future, focusing on energy, mobility and the application of technology in the case of Manchester.

Further to this, the cities of Eindhoven, The Netherlands and Stavanger in Norway were also involved with projects that looked at additional aspects for the creation of the smart city The Manchester Triangulum project focused on the city’s Oxford Road, with the intention of turning this into a ‘smart corridor’.

In addition to the city council, key partners also included the University of Manchester and the city’s Metropolitan University, relying on the technical expertise of Siemens to deliver four main energy projects.

PFM spoke to Manchester City Council resources and programmes officer Martine Tommis and Siemens senior solutions manager Ivan Hewlett to hear more about their work on the four-year project that began in 2016. “I actually began working on related EU projects around 20 years ago,” Ms Tommis tells PFM.

“The inclusion of both the three main cities and the three follower cities within Triangulum means that we can benefit by the lessons learned and help in the future.

“We are now focusing on the legacy of Triangulum as well as continuing to assess and analyse the results, but there’s a lot of evidence-based support available already and there will be much more to come,” she says.

Martine Tommis

These lessons and results have become even more valuable over the last few years, Ms Tommis continues, as the issue of climate change has become much more important on the global agenda. Many more people are now aware of the urgent need to address this and introduce changes, she says.

Mr Hewlett says that the project required a high level of analysis on all aspects of the facilities and infrastructure within the Oxford Road corridor, which was not always straightforward.

This was due to a variety of issues, including the need to dealing with multiple stakeholders and complex regulations, combined with a lack of sufficiently detailed plans in some areas.

“With such an in-depth project like Triangulum there will always be challenges, but in many ways that helps to increase everyone’s knowledge in how to overcome these, while achieving the best outcomes,” he says.

One of the various in-depth studies included the energy use of the Grade 2-listed Manchester Art Gallery, which showed that significant savings could be made through updating its building energy management system (BEMS).

In addition to reducing gas and electricity usage, the new system is expected to reduce carbon emissions by more than 190,000kg per annum, while also allowing the art gallery to control temperature and humidity levels to protect its exhibits more effectively.

Further to this, studies of the Manchester Metropolitan University energy system resulted in the installation of a 400kWh Lithium-ion battery.

In addition to being charged from the National Grid overnight, it also receives input from the on-site combined heat and power (CHP) engine and 157kWh solar panels. Energy generation, storage and load assets are managed by a microgrid controller to regulate consumption within the university’s Birley campus to provide both cost savings and reduce carbon emissions.

“It looks like the success of the various projects will now see similar aspects being used around Manchester,” says Ms Tommis. “Triangulum has helped us to evaluate the technologies that work best for us.”

At the start of the initiative, consideration was given to biomass and solid oxide fuel cells, but studies showed that these were either unsuitable for a central city location or the technology was not necessarily developed to a high enough degree to ensure delivery of a sufficient number of benefits.

Yet another important part of Triangulum was the improving of the level of control for as many aspects of energy usage as possible. In addition to the BEMS installation at Manchester Art Gallery, Siemens created a cloud-based virtual power plant.

“This shows the energy consumption of the core buildings taking part in the Oxford Road corridor, which in turn has allowed them to be better managed and deliver more savings,” says Mr Hewlett.

One of the benefits has been to identify when facilities are using peak time energy and then implement measures to reduce consumption.

Perhaps more than any other aspect of the highly-detailed project, the virtual power plant shows the true potential of smart cities and proves that this is now a realistic proposition and not just conceptual.

Studies show that if the central control concept was used for the entire Manchester area it would save 57,000 tonnes of CO2 every year, which is equivalent to removing the emissions of 12,000 cars.

Another essential element of all the activities within the Triangulum project was the carrying out of a study of the grid infrastructure around the Oxford Road corridor using both constrained and unconstrained network analysis by Siemens.

“There are a lot of questions around the use of renewables and the timings of power generation of these for cities,” says Mr Hewlett. In order for these to be used efficiently, it is essential to understand the positioning and capacity of grid infrastructure, which can then help to identify where local generation and storage technologies are placed, he continues.

This will avoid additional costs, such as the installation of transformers and the digging up of roads to rectify issues that arise if the existing infrastructure is unable to cope with the increased demand.

“There are no easy answers in these cases,” says Mr Hewlett. “It’s not just a case of choosing the right equipment, you also need to consider what can be put where and it’s essential to establish a unified approach from all the partners see where the available capacity will allow equipment to be placed.

“So in many cases it’s not just about the retrofitting of buildings, it’s also about the retrofitting of the grid infrastructure,” he says.

Ms Tommis confirms that the Triangulum project has been highly valuable in how the application of controls and the use of the most effective renewable technologies can drive significant savings in carbon emissions while also saving money in energy costs, for both businesses and individuals, and improving both the interior and exterior environment around facilities.

“It’s provided us with a great deal of understanding of how to manage older buildings, too, through the effective use of processing power, good data and understanding where the sensors should be positioned and what data is needed.

"We now have very clear information on energy use and the savings achieved to show that the system in place is commercially viable,” she concludes.

With evidence-based data now proving that significant benefits and savings available when the correct levels of preparation, design and application are applied, the Triangulum project clearly shows that smart cities can be achieved through the implementation of strong working partnerships such as that of Manchester City Council, Siemens and their co-participants in the Oxford Road corridor.


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