There are around 1.5 million sporting facilities in Europe helping people have fun, stay healthy, and have fun.
But places like gyms, swimming pools, indoor playing courts and even outdoor playing courts consume massive amounts of energy. The energy usage patterns in sports centres are extremely irregular, with long periods of low usage and peak periods of intense demand â€ during sporting events for example.
Attempts are being made to cut the energy use by such establishments.
Civil engineer Donato Zangani, the project coordinator with D'Appolonia/Sporte2, explained: "Our objective was to develop a modular, scalable platform, able to respond to four big questions; how, when, why and where energy is used inside sport facilities. To answer those questions, we have developed four independent modules, designed to monitor, control and optimise the energy consumption; and to inform the (sport facility) managers of the real (energy consumption) situation in different areas within the sports facility."
A sports centre near Rome was used as pilot site to test the platform. It has a network of sensors around the indoor swimming pool to monitor the energy used for lighting, heating, cooling, air quality and ventilation, and the impact for users.
The researchers made some surprising discoveries.
Marco Arnesano, a thermo-mechanical engineer from Marche Polytechnic University, said: "These sensors have, for instance, let us understand that there is a huge temperature variation due to the position of the swimming pool and its ventilation system. There is around seven degrees Celsius difference between the north and the south-facing sides. So in this space there is a huge variation in thermo-hydrometric conditions. These optimised sensors allow us to calculate that variation in an accurate, affordable way."
Data from the swimming pool and the other sports areas was then sent to a central module to be analysed and after checking complimentary data like weather forecasting or planned facility usage, it can optimise energy consumption.
Nicola Daldosso, a technical physicist, with Schneider Electric, talked us through the equipment they are using: "These sensors allow us to measure the energy consumption in the gym, the swimming pool, the dressing rooms, the administration office; all the different spaces inside this sport facility. The platform also has sensors that allow us to monitor temperature and humidity in different areas. And this module, equipped with an intelligent system that receives all the data, stores it and allows us to control, via software and the web, all the different parameters in the various sport environments."
Researchers think that once fully developed, the platform will allow sport facilities like this one to save up to 30 percent of their energy bills after just five years - which is good news for sports facility owners.
Valeria Giovanelli, the owner of Fidia Sport Srl sports centre, is pleased: "I'm convinced that these sensors, once distributed in all the different sporting areas, will help me to optimise my energy consumption. I will get the information I need to consume less energy when there are fewer people using the sport facilities or to increase the energy use during the peak hours."
Researchers also expect the system to contribute to reducing up to 30 percent of CO2 emissions from sports facilities.
- Project acronym: SPORTE2
- FP7 Project N° 260124
- Participants: Italy (Coordinator), Greece, Portugal, Spain
- Total costs: € 4 707 124
- EU contribution: € 2 966 000
- Duration: September 2010 - August 2013