COHORT: Coordination of Heterogeneous Thermostatically Controlled Loads for Demand Flexibility
Demand flexibility is increasingly important for power grids. Careful coordination of thermostatically controlled loads (TCLs) can modulate energy demand, decrease operating costs, and increase grid resiliency. We propose a novel distributed control framework for the Coordination Of HeterOgeneous Residential Thermostatically controlled loads (COHORT). COHORT is a practical, scalable, and versatile solution that coordinates a population of TCLs to jointly optimize a grid-level objective, while satisfying each TCL's end-use requirements and operational constraints. To achieve that, we decompose the grid-scale problem into subproblems and coordinate their solutions to find the global optimum using the alternating direction method of multipliers (ADMM). The TCLs' local problems are distributed to and computed in parallel at each TCL, making COHORT highly scalable and privacy-preserving. While each TCL poses combinatorial and non-convex constraints, we characterize these constraints as a convex set through relaxation, thereby making COHORT computationally viable over long planning horizons. After coordination, each TCL is responsible for its own control and tracks the agreed-upon power trajectory with its preferred strategy. In this work, we translate continuous power back to discrete on/off actuation, using pulse width modulation. COHORT is generalizable to a wide range of grid objectives, which we demonstrate through three distinct use cases: generation following, minimizing ramping, and peak load curtailment. In a notable experiment, we validated our approach through a hardware-in-the-loop simulation, including a real-world air conditioner (AC) controlled via a smart thermostat, and simulated instances of ACs modeled after real-world data traces. During the 15-day experimental period, COHORT reduced daily peak loads by an average of 12.5% and maintained comfortable temperatures.