Probably the best student placement opportunity ever!? developing an open energy management system at the Center for Alternative Technology

If your a student, looking for a student placement and interested in open source hardware and software, energy monitoring and sustainability this might be of real interest to you. The Center for Alternative Technology are offering an exciting student placement developing an open source energy control and management system for the CAT site, intended to ultimately replace two large proprietary Building Management/SCADA systems that will help them use the site more effectively as a living laboratory for sustainable energy systems.



Here's the full project description from Adam Taylor at CAT:

This placement will assist with the initial development and demonstration of a wireless open source energy management and monitoring system

Project description and person specification

Why?
At the centre we have two proprietary Building Management/SCADA systems that are used for monitoring and heating control; for historical reasons the two systems are not linked in anyway, leading to operational problems. Also as the site is effectively a living laboratory, constantly evolving in its use and layout, the proprietary nature of the systems lead to areas not being integrated or lead to expensive integrations.

Because of the lack of complete site wide monitoring, our knowledge of energy usage is restricted to a site wide level, not the office level that would be useful. Also because of the various none linked systems, heating operation is down to a member of staff switching it on appropriately early to warm the room up, and remembering to switch it off after the room has been finished with. With a detailed understanding of how much energy is actually being used, in comparison with our site energy model, as well as being able to automate the operation of the heating, has the potential to save CAT significant amounts of carbon, time and money.

Once the initial development and demonstration of the system Is complete, the project can then be opened up to the wider open source community, for further development. The demonstration system would also be expanded to cover the whole site, eventually replacing the two existing proprietary systems.

What?
Due to the proprietary and incomplete nature of the existing systems at CAT, a project was begun a few years ago with openenergymonitor.org developers to develop a system to gather data from our various electrical generators, and present it to the public visitors in a understandable way. This proposed project will build on the work of the open energy monitoring project, to develop an open energy management and monitoring system.

The project would initially be looking into the feasibility, and best method of implementation of the proposed plan, to use known well developed technologies such as Arduino micro controllers and xBee wireless RF modules, as part of a meshed wireless energy management and monitoring system.

The main part of the project would be to develop and install a relatively small demonstration of the system, but one that demonstrates all the fundamental requirements of the system. The fundamental requirements are to:
  • Monitor and record a variety of types of sensor readings; e.g. pulsed output anemometers, and variable resistance thermocouples 
  • Operate external systems; e.g. boilers, pumps and radiators 
  • Display recorded data in a useful manor to the general public; e.g. an electronic sign showing the performance of a solar thermal system 
  • Be able to be programmed easily with new control strategies and room bookings 
  • Be developed under open source principles 
  • Be fully documented 
Who?

The applicant should be someone with an interest in open source electronic development. The project requires someone with a rigorous and detailed approach to their work, who has an interest in working in the field of environmental monitoring.

The applicant will be working within CAT’s Estates and Technical department, specifically alongside the Engineering team. The multi-discipline teams contain experienced qualified mechanical, electrical, control and heating Engineers, as well as a plumber, electrician and builder. Guidance and support will be provided throughout the project by the team, but a fair amount of previous experience with electronics and software development will be required.

This is also an ideal opportunity for someone who wishes to learn, in a hands-on manner, about renewable energy generating technologies, eco building, mechanical or control engineering. As well as the energy management system project, the applicant will be helping out with the day to day duties of the teams, including fixing and maintaining the site buildings, heating, electrical supplies, control systems and displays. There will also be opportunities to be involved in any of the projects being undertaken by the teams during the placement. Projects either on-going, or due to start in the next twelve months include:
  • Specifying, installing and commissioning a new biomass boiler for the WISE building 
  • Connecting the new WISE boiler, the new biomass training centre and site community cottages onto existing site heat main, including reconfiguration of SCADA control strategy to account for new loads and heat sources 
  • Upgrading the two main hydro turbines on site 
  • On-going maintenance and upgrade work to the site cliff railway 
S.M.A.R.T. Targets 

Specific
goal:
The goal of the project during the year placement is for the applicant to develop and demonstrate and document, a wireless open source energy management and monitoring system. This system can then be expanded in the future so that it can be used to monitor and reduce site energy usage.

Measurable goals:
The system must be able to perform four basic requirements. All four basic requirements will be restricted to an individual node on the network for the demonstration, and therefore can be developed separately. The four basic requirements are to:
  • Monitor and record a variety of types of sensor readings; e.g. pulsed output anemometers, and variable resistance thermocouples 
  • Operate external systems; e.g. boilers, pumps and radiators 
  • Display recorded data in a useful manor to the general public; e.g. an electronic sign showing the performance of a solar thermal system 
  • Be able to be programmed easily with new control strategies and room bookings 
Attainable and Realistic goals: The project is a significant undertaking, but also one that is realistic and attainable. Within the Engineering team at CAT, exists all the skills and knowledge to undertake the project, all of which will be available to the applicant to help guide and steer when required. The project also has a real world end use as an objective, which will provide significant motivation to the applicant.

Timely goals:
The placement is limited to a period of one year, which provides a fixed end point to the project.


How to apply & Role description
http://content.cat.org.uk/index.php/vacancies?download=123%3Afunded-student-placement-building-energy-monitoring-system-developer-fixed-term

We've done a fair bit of work with the Center for Alternative Technology over the years, recently running a openenergymonitor course from there and in 2010-2011 working on a emoncms powered microgrid display and pulse counter/data logger for grid import/export.

Microgrid display project at CAT [1] [2] [3]
CAT OpenEnergyMonitor course

We will be happy to support you, go through things that may be helpful both on hardware and software design, the openenergymonitor lab is based 30 miles north of CAT and we often go down to CAT and Machynlleth.

CAT is one of Europe's leading sustainability center's, it is a university, a visitors center a pulisher of books, reports such as zerocarbonbritain and a place were practical solutions, sustainable technologies are tried out, tested and demonstrated.

Application deadline is the 15th of July
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