Patent Seeks to Sustain Thermostatically Controlled Loads

This article was originally published on, May 6, 2019.

PNNL researchers Jianming Lian, Karanjit Kalsi, joint appointee Wei Zhang, and former PNNL intern Sen Li recently received a patent for a market mechanism consisting of novel bidding and clearing strategies. These strategies—for the first time—systematically incorporate the internal dynamics of thermostatically controlled loads, or energy use that adjusts automatically to temperature changes. The patent is the first of two the team has sought for related research.

In 2014, the team began analyzing the field testing data collected from the AEP gridSMART® Demonstration project. They identified shortcomings associated with the transactive controllers deployed in the field.

“We added mathematical rigor to the controller design so that their performance can be guaranteed only if they use accurate market data,” said Lian. “Then, in 2015, we went a step further and generalized the results so that we could develop the entire theoretical foundation that would work across all transactive systems for future transactive control paradigm.”

This pioneering work has become the foundation for follow-on research funded by DOE’s Office of Electricity, the Building Technologies Office, and Washington State’s Clean Energy Fund. The largest study is the Clean Energy and Transactive Campus project, which is led by PNNL with Washington State University and the University of Toledo. The purpose of the project is to use controllers—peppered in buildings on campus—that transmit market pricing information to energy systems such as air conditioners so that users can make informed decisions about whether or not they want their systems to “turn on” during peak use and price times.

Patent number US 10,210,568, “Coordination of Thermostatically Controlled Loads with Unknown Parameters,” was issued on February 19, 2019.

For information about licensing this technology, please contact Peter Christensen