Sustainable Campus Testbed

New facilities to help embed carbon reduction technologies and practices and improve sustainability at the University.

What is it?

A suite of net zero facilities to make our restored 200 year old building more sustainable and deliver new research capabilities.

The additional technologies for our building and its public realm will optimise our use of renewable energy and lower our carbon emissions thanks to a £2.5 million UKRPIF Research England Sustainable Campus Testbed award.

How does the facility work?

The Sustainable Campus Testbed includes:

  • A smart energy system including a used car battery energy storage facility with a microgrid demand control system to help us maximise our use of low carbon energy. We will store our building’s roof-top solar energy and low carbon intensity energy from the national grid and use it in the building at times when the energy available from the grid is at high carbon intensity. This facility will also provide a research platform for modelling energy systems in real time and in parallel we are doing research on battery optimisation in this context.
  • An experimental artificial-intelligence-driven datacentre energy management platform that will enable us to research how best to reduce the energy consumption of the Reality Emulator and its Datacentre hardware and contribute to our net zero targets. The deployment of sensors at every level of this platform will allow us to monitor energy consumption in real time and investigate the benefits of automating decisions on placing parts of the system into sleep mode, shut down and starting up again.
  • Native tree species monitored and evaluated for levels of carbon sequestration. The trees are fitted with sophisticated digital sensors which precisely measure the growth, water use and physiological status of trees in real-time and enable us to track how much carbon our trees are storing over time.
  • Bio-walls and optimal planting mixes to improve air quality. We are monitoring air quality in BDFI’s public realm using smart sensor technologies which detect a variety of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and particle levels to evaluate the effectiveness of biowalls in .
  • Sensors for real-time data monitoring of building occupation and status to allow us to intelligently reduce heating and lighting use in areas not in use.
  • Heat metering to provide heat, temperature and flow rate data from the Datacentre. We already use heat from the Datacentre chillers to heat BDFI’s building this additional metering will allow to also export heat elsewhere as needed.

Why is it special?

We will use real-time and historical data from all our net-zero initiatives to inform and train our energy management system and deliver our net zero targets. We will be able to capture valuable data of real-world loading on the battery energy storage system; energy data from the datacentre and Reality Emulator itself; battery optimisation data; data from our building management system, the indoor and outdoor sensors (including specialist air quality and tree sensors); and relevant data from external sources. Uniquely we will bring all this data into the Reality Emulator together with digital twin models and produce models for real-time immersive visualisation of energy consumption and carbon reduction which can be used for practical applications, research, education and public engagement.

The Sustainable Campus Testbed will provide a valuable new set of research tools. Several  university research and operational units are involved in supporting the testbed, including the Supergen Energy Networks Hub, Energy Futures Lab, the Smart Internet Lab, Atmospheric ChemistryEcology and Environmental Change, Campus Smart Technology and the University of Bristol's Sustainablity Team.

What difference might it make?

In line with the University and BDFI’s mission the Testbed will help us to significantly reduce our energy use, lower our carbon emissions. It is estimated that these measures could ultimately save approximately 65 tonnes of CO2 a year, the same as emissions from the annual electricity use of 42 households.

We will also learn more of the potential of deploying biowalls and trees to improve air quality in former brownfield sites and will these to undertake wider research on benefits to biodiversity and improvements to health and well-being of users.

The knowledge and evidence gained from the testbed will be evaluated for use across the University of Bristol’s campuses, the wider higher education sector and beyond.

Connected Energy battery storage
Battery storage containers Image credit: University of Bristol
Net zero bio walls
Biowall, containing 26 species that grow well together, add season interest and are known to be good at absorbing pollutants. Image credit: BDFI
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