Comsof Heat is one way to approach heat network design.
Other methods can be highly numeric and financially focussed. There may be some manual mapping and design. There will be some serious calculations in determining the specification of the kit required. Meanwhile, there is more and more demand to design using data driven solutions.
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Heat network design development specifications call for data centric approach. A strategy that allows for the incorporation of data assets from one stage to the next means there is a seamless transfer of consistent information, without loss of detail whilst avoiding double handling. The Shape files are used with the free and commonly used QGIS software. As such, Shape files produced at the detailed feasibility stage are transferable to the next stages of heat network design developed e.g. detailed design stage.
Ultimately, we can aim to have developed a digital twin of our heat network that will operate virtually in real time and replicating the performance of the real world version.
In a U.K. context the minimum standard is determined by the Heat Network Development Unit.
However, there is also a commercial driver to strive for excellence and build long-term relationships that allow us to add value to the problems our clients encounter; with a view to reducing the risk whilst optimising the performance related to the heat network operations.
Some firms focus on developing an in-house software application. There are also free to use software applications in the market. The question is whether there is a sustainable business model to keep supporting the development of these tools for many more years. There are many examples of early-funded software tools out there that worked once but are now redundant.
Comsof, as a dedicated software developer, has a sustainable model that means their product is supported and maintained.
There are free to use softwares being trialled in the U.K. and that are indeed similar to Comsof heat.
Here are some distinctions that Comsof Heat offers:
- Comsof Heat offers more control on the inputs and the results, while free to use softwares may function more like a black box
- Comsof Heat allows easy data manipulation via GIS files and resulting excel files while in the free to use software it is more clunky, for example all inputs and outputs may be displayed in pop-out windows with little interaction
- Comsof Heat optimises the trenching and deployment costs while the free to use software may have a more complication configuration e.g. multi objective optimisation methods and the calculations take longer
- Comsof Heat offers design support services and training while the free to use software does not have the budget to offer much support
- Free to use softwares may be limited by their own servers, so if there are many users are online, the system slows down. Comsof Heat can offer a dedicated cloud solution.
- Comsof Heat is here for the long-term and the free to use software could disappear if funding stops
This is where Comsof Heat comes in, with a business model based on delivering long-term value, whereas free to use software could disappear if funding stops.
- Compare multiple scenarios
- Simulate different uptake scenarios
- Consider different roll-out plans (deployment plans)
- Visualisation of the district and the network on a map
- Initial technical design: pipe sizing, pressure diagram, …
- Insights in the financial viability of the project: CAPEX, OPEX
- Scenario building
- Network deployment phasing
- Automated routing
- Multi users
- GIS, API integration
- Financial features including CapEx and OpEx cashflow, IRR and net benefit analysis
- Design with multiple heat sources
- Integration of heating and cooling parameter
We incorporates a range of inputs; GIS and energy data, material and labour unit costs, technical parameters e.g. operating temperatures and pressure, heat network zone and heat source location.
The outputs are automated and include: building selection and clustering, optimal heat source site selection, network topology, pipe-sizing and optimal routing, CapEx, OpEx, Cashflow, IRR and net benefit analysis.
All the above rely on getting good quality inputs – Getting good data to have the model calculate is crucial. 80% of the validity of the results come from the quality of the data and 20% from Comsof Heat.
From preparation and briefing, through to use it can continually incorporate new information to provide insight into the options available. If adopted for concept design, detailed feasibility study and detailed design stage the vision and clarity of the potential for the heat network will be more deeply embedded.