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VOLTTRON™: A Not-so-Secret Agent for Managing Energy Use in Buildings

March 2015
VOLTTRON™: A Not-so-Secret Agent for Managing Energy Use in Buildings
The VOLTTRON™ communications environment.
VOLTTRON™ enables appliances and houses to use software "agents" to communicate with each other to coordinate the use of energy and shift loads to off-peak times. This means lower energy bills for customers, and more predictable, even loads for utilities, so they can respond more rapidly to variable powergeneration, such as solar and wind.
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A Connecticut firm recently licensed PNNL's VOLTTRON™ software platform for managing building energy use. Created to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing energy system and the need to integrate renewable energy generation, energy storage, and electric vehicles, VOLTTRON™ is an open source software platform for distributed sensing and control for smart grid and building applications. Its information gathering, processing, and action controlling capabilities let users take advantage of the ever-increasing number of sensors and controls being deployed in the grid and buildings. Better use of new digital data streams offers in-depth understanding of the energy system and enables decentralized cooperative decision making to prioritize power needs.

Originally developed under PNNL's Future Power Grid Initiative as part of the GridOPTICS™ capability suite, VOLTTRON™ was then supported by the Building Technologies Office under the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). It was designed to run on resource-constrained hardware and interact with smart and legacy appliances that cannot interact with the smart grid on their own. Because it can independently manage and/or build a wide range of applications, such as heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems, lighting, electric vehicles, distributed energy, or entire building loads, use of VOLTTRON™ leads to improved operational efficiency and reliability,

VOLTTRON™ has been extensively simulated and tested under ongoing DOE EERE projects. It has successfully scheduled water heater and electric vehicle recharging operations at PNNL’s Lab Home facilities, and was used by Lawrence Berkeley and Oak Ridge National Laboratories in the Buildings Technologies Office-funded Transactive Network project.


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