Model predictive control has proved to be a promising control strategy for improving the operational performance of multi-source thermal energy generation systems with the aim of maximising the exploitation of on-site renewable resources. This paper presents the formulation and implementation of a model predictive control strategy for the management of a latent heat thermal energy storage unit coupled with a solar thermal collector and a backup electric heater. The system uses an innovative Phase Change Material slurry for both the heat transfer fluid and storage media. The formulation of a model predictive controller of such a closed-loop solar system is particularly desirable but also challenging mainly due to the nonlinearity of the heat exchange and thermal storage processes involved. A solution for the model predictive control problem to regulate a system with intrinsic nonlinearities is introduced using a mixed logic-dynamical approach. The model predictive control regulation is tested and compared with a baseline rule-based controller considering both ideal and estimated disturbance predictions. Results demonstrate the capability of the predictive controller in anticipating future disturbances and in optimising the utilisation of the more efficient energy sources. When compared to the rule-based controller, the model predictive control algorithm leads to reductions of the system primary energy demand ranging from 19.2% to 31.8% as a function of the variation of a soft constraint on meeting demand constraints. The work contributes to new knowledge on how model predictive control algorithms can be implemented to maximise the benefits of integrating thermal energy storages that employ latent heat of fusion with solar thermal technologies.
Available for download on Tuesday, August 04, 2020