A review of urban energy systems at building cluster level incorporating renewable-energy-source (RES) envelope solutions

Xingxing Zhang, Marco Lovati, Ilaria Vigna, Joakim Widen, Mengjie Han, Csilla Gal, T. Feng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

53 Citations (Scopus)
193 Downloads (Pure)


The emergence of renewable-energy-source (RES) envelope solutions, building retrofit requirements and advanced energy technologies brought about challenges to the existing paradigm of urban energy systems. It is envisioned that the building cluster approach—that can maximize the synergies of RES harvesting, building performance, and distributed energy management—will deliver the breakthrough to these challenges. Thus, this paper aims to critically review urban energy systems at the cluster level that incorporate building integrated RES solutions. We begin with defining cluster approach and the associated boundaries. Several factors influencing energy planning at cluster scale are identified, while the most important ones are discussed in detail. The closely reviewed factors include RES envelope solutions, solar energy potential, density of buildings, energy demand, integrated cluster-scale energy systems and energy hub. The examined categories of RES envelope solutions are (i) the solar power, (ii) the solar thermal and (iii) the energy-efficient ones, out of which solar energy is the most prevalent RES. As a result, methods assessing the solar energy potentials of building envelopes are reviewed in detail. Building density and the associated energy use are also identified as key factors since they affect the type and the energy harvesting potentials of RES envelopes. Modelling techniques for building energy demand at cluster level and their coupling with complex integrated energy systems or an energy hub are reviewed in a comprehensive way. In addition, the paper discusses control and operational methods as well as related optimization algorithms for the energy hub concept. Based on the findings of the review, we put forward a matrix of recommendations for cluster-level energy system simulations aiming to maximize the direct and indirect benefits of RES envelope solutions. By reviewing key factors and modelling approaches for characterizing RES-envelope-solutions-based urban energy systems at cluster level, this paper hopes to foster the transition towards more sustainable urban energy systems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1034-1056
Number of pages23
JournalApplied Energy
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2018


  • RES
  • Building cluster
  • Energy system
  • Energy hub
  • Modelling
  • Optimization


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