About duanetilden

Engineer, Entrepreneur, Blogger, Farmer, Traveler and Nature Lover. I love music, quotes and blog about Green Building & Energy.

Renewable Energy and Heat Pumps – Net Zero Energy by Design

As a mechanical engineer I spent 17 years in design of mechanical systems. Always seeking the best solution given budgets and adhering to efficient design principles. Often we can combine systems by hybridization, where two technologies come together in a synergistic match. I have used hybrid technologies, using ground loops and air-air fluid coolers, with heat pumps successfully in the mechanical design and construction of a number of buildings.

While wind energy may be harvested, it is not always available. Some regions get more wind than others, and there may be governmental or civic restrictions. For renewable energy, solar may be a better option than wind, even though it is only available during the day. In either case some form of auxiliary power will be required, such as batteries,  grid connection, fuel powered generator, or hydro-power.

The use of heat pumps allows for the provision of a number of heating and cooling devices which may be connected to a central circulating building loop. As heat pumps have operating temperatures generally between 40F to 90F, although it may vary depending on heat energy source, such as air, water or ground.  Air temperatures may vary during the day and season. As air temperature drops, heat pumps lose efficiency. We can see this in the following figure. (1)

air-source-heat-pumps-cold-weather

In the case of geothermal heat pump system design, there are some options. One method is to run a water source such as a pond, river, body of water in an open loop design,  in a closed loop method using an process waste heat stream or ground coupled system. Either system is usually connected to a heat-exchanger to which is connected a second closed house loop. The house loop is controlled to either discharge or gain heat from the geothermal loop.

I am attaching  a blog post (2) from 2007 where I made a comment in 2009. This blog post is still getting comments. I believe such systems can be designed and constructed and would contribute to a “Net-Zero” building systems.

I am a lawyer who has been interested in the subject of energy conservation since the seventies. Back when we had the first OPEC crisis, I thought this country would head in a direction away from the consumption of huge quantities of oil and gas. It didn’t happen. Now of course, our thirst for oil has been the primary reason for a preemptive war with no end in sight. Moreover, peak oil seems to be here. And so far nothing much seems to have changed. But the public, may at last be ready for something different.

There are some real promising things happening with new solar energy systems and with wind turbines. It is long past due. But I still keep wondering whether we are approaching this problem of solving our energy demands the right way. With both solar and wind systems all technology seems to be headed toward the creation of electricity. Electricity is definitely useful but often inefficient.

Heating and cooling costs are about 60-70 percent of home energy costs. It is far more cost effective to use heat transfer than to make heat. Water source heat pumps are 300-400 percent efficient while the best ordinary HVAC systems might be forty percent efficient. (Are they that much?) What if you could even vastly surpass the efficiency of a water source heat pump. How? By making the wind pump the water instead of an electric pump.

Why not use wind to its best advantage? Make the wind do what it has done very efficiently for hundreds of years: pump water. Make it pump water from a warm place to a cold place and make it store the heat where the heat is needed or wanted. In the winter pump the heat from under the ground into the house. In the summer pump the heat from house into the ground.

To do this, because of the wind’s variability, one would need a huge (?) thermal sink in the house to slowly release the heat transferred from underground to the heat sink or to transfer the heat from the house to the ground while the wind was not blowing.

A four part system. A wind turbine. A pump. A closed loop of pipe. An interior thermal sink.

It is fairly well known that in most climates, five or six feet below ground, the temperature is a about 55 degrees. I think it is quite possible to take advantage of the geothermal underground temperature by using a wind turbine to pump water from underground into an interior thermal sink. If a large enough volume of water could be circulated to where the interior heat sink reached 55 degrees, I think such a home’s heating and cooling costs would be drastically reduced.

If the large thermal sink could get the house temperature substantially raised in the winter and substantially cooled in the summer, very little additional energy might be required to bring it to a desirable temperature with the use of a water source heat pump. A water source heat pump would work in tandem very well by using the internal heat sink as a convenient source to operate a water source heat pump.

My idea would be to use a vertical wind turbine on the roof coupled to an Archimedes screw to pumps and circulates water through the closed loop. The vertical wind turbines seem to need less wind, have more torque, and are quieter. I also think that from an architectural point of view, they would look much more attractive, especially the ones that look like spinnerets. They also take advantage of a sloping roof which increases wind speed.

I also think the Archimedes screw would be an ideal pump. It requires no gears or lubrication and could attach by a straight shaft to the vertical wind turbine. An Archimedes screw would be very inexpensive as pumping systems go and extremely reliable as there is really nothing to break.

I have other ideas about roof design and about turbine design for greater efficiency. I also have ideas about the plumbing. What I would like to see is whether there are people out there who think this idea has commercial merit and if so, how we might go about making wind driven water pumping for geothermal transfer a success. We would need some engineering and architectural expertise and some ability to fabricate the wind turbines and pumps.

I look forward to responses.

Duane Tilden said…

I have been looking at the latest responses and it seems to me there is some confusion about this idea.

Firstly, heat pump technology, as pointed out achieves it’s high COP’s from the phase change. It is through the leveraging of the refrigerant phase change from a fluid to the gas phase where heat energy can be obtained from low temperature heat sources. This is how geothermal heat pumps can obtain heat energy from relatively low temp sources such as the ground where nominal ambient water temp would be at 55F and deliver hot water at temps of 90F to 140F.

Alternatively heat pumps can be used in air/air, air/water, water/air and water/water configurations. These are generally stand alone devices where in a properly engineered installation do not require supplemental heat sources.

Wind energy is a separate sustainable, environmentally friendly application. In my opinion the OP’s idea of using wind energy to move water around for a heat pump application is marginal and likely too capital intensive to realize any real benefit. Also, it is just too restrictive, in my opinion.

Wind energy converted directly to electricity, or other dedicated pumping applications where electricity is not available is best (water pumping up to a reservoir in agricultural or power generation schemes for example). There also may be some merit to the idea of storing the energy as compressed air, but the amount of heat generated would not be significant, usable heat source. Try heating your home with a candle.

Electricity is used by a wide range of applications, so why not use the wind energy to best effectiveness? The operation of the compressor in the heat pump and the pumps to run the water loop(s) require electricity, so do common home appliances.

There may be some applications where the proffered idea would make sense, but not likely widely applicable for single family residences unless you have a large property and money to burn.

SEPTEMBER 26, 2009 AT 10:44 PM

 

References:

  1. heat-pump-effective-temperature-range/
  2. wind-turbine-heat-pump-geothermal
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Hybrid Electric Bus uses Hydrogen as Fuel

“[…] According to Paulo Emilio, this is the most efficient hydrogen bus in the world. “A European company tested a hydrogen bus in ten cities, which consumed 25 kilos of hydrogen for each 100 kilometers; this month, the same company launched an improved version, with 14 kilos of hydrogen consumed for each 100 kilometers” where as “our bus consumes just 5 kilos of hydrogen”, he says. […]”

via Literally, a green bus

Are Cryptocurrencies a Fad or a Revolution in Finance?

Duane M. Tilden, P.Eng
November 5, 2017

As I was walking to my weekly bridge game at the local club, I was pondering my newfound interest in cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin, Ethereum, the block chain, and related topics such as mining, smart contracts, ICO’s; the list goes on. I also thought about the value of things from my childhood, like marbles, hockey and baseball trading cards, comic books, coins, stamps, post cards, and other things that I have collected. All which created markets and gained extrinsic value over time, and could be held speculatively. I then asked myself, “Are cryptocurrencies a passing  fad or here to stay?”

What Makes a Currency Valuable?

Some things, such as coins may be made of a valuable base metal alloy, like gold, silver, nickel and copper. Coins are currency, and as such a perfect example to assessing intrinsic value and extrinsic value. In the past coins were minted with higher contents of the base metal alloys.  The metal content gave them an intrinsic value due to the metals rarity and utility. In time, these metals gained value, to the point where it cost more to mint a coin than it was worth.  People would then begin to horde or “mine” the coin for its intrinsic value which was greater than it’s face value as a currency.

metcalfe_curve

Figure 1. The Metcalfe Curve (1)

Extrinsic value, however, could be likened to what we would consider the “fiat” aspect of a currency. As currencies have moved away from a gold or silver standard, the value of money is largely based on consensus. Markets are also consensus driven, without a universal agreement or set of rules, there could not be trade. This is the reason for the development for money or currency. I work and get paid in the common unit of currency, which I can then use to buy and rent goods and services.

Currency and Security

Until recent developments, Governments and their agencies in partnership with banking institutions have generally controlled currency and financial markets. The operation of the economy is the basis upon which society functions. Money exchanges hands for goods and services, including wages. One currency usually denominates value in a physical market. However, these markets can be subject to various forms of attack or manipulation. Physical money could be counterfeited, transfer of money and assets could be lost or stolen, other forms of fraud could occur where one loses their assets.

Another form of attack is personal, or on the individual. Local regulations and taxation laws require valuation of assets and income which are held by the individual to be known to the public agency and could be subject to economic deprivation and restrictions. This is an instance where individual privacy is violated in built-in, systemic and semi-transparent.

Examples of this are everywhere, such as income tax, sales tax, medical tax, alimony and child-support, retirement and pension plans, insurance. If you owe the government money in a disputed case, they often will violate an individuals rights to deprive them of assets, such as money in bank accounts, garnishee of wages directly from the employer, denial of services, loss of principal residence and other such actions.

Most of the money that we earn, own, or spend is being tracked by the government. There are lots of taxes and lots of “rules” made by the big boys. Unfortunately, the present financial system is often disadvantaging us. Why? Because it often collects more than it provides. (2)

Consensus and Fiat Money

Since a currency in today’s world generally consists of a consensus agreeing in a trading market place, then the truth is anything can have value. As the internet has opened up trading across international borders, and companies have sprung up in the financial market place to provide services beyond their physical location, often catering to the world. I can purchase electronics from China and have them delivered to Canada on eBay, using PayPal or a credit card to exchange in their accepted currency. Buy and sell ads have sprung up, such as Craigslist and Kijiji , allowing wider ranging access to markets at a greatly reduced costs as compared to paper advertising in magazines.

Computer users over time had an edge over non-users, as information became available in a vast manner over greater areas. Shopping for the best price of a desired item, good or service can be searched for on my laptop and obtained at a fair cost. No longer does one have to go out and purchase a paper magazine or ad book, in their search. We now can now open a browser on our computer, or digital device, ask a question on a search engine and sort through a selection of answers. Phone numbers, addresses, reviews, prices, hours of operation, names of staff, job openings and more information is all available quickly and efficiently.

Enter the Bitcoin, blockchains and crypto-currencies. In one report recently obtained, sourced from the international Engineering Firm ARUP (2) it has been stated about Bitcoin, a technology introduced by Satoshi Nakomoto.

At the start of 2009,when the world was in the middle of a major financial crisis, a paradigm shift in technology quietly made its debut. That technology is called Bitcoin, and it’s the biggest innovation in finance in 500 years, and certainly the greatest invention of the 21st century so far. (3)

Cryptocurrencies Create Markets

Beyond creating an anonymous system of financial transactions and storage, crypto-currencies are creating new markets of value and trade. There has been a recent wave of new crypto-currencies coming on the market, most of which have issued whitepapers, and have sales landing pages which outline the details about structure, their markets or business plan, how to participate, and their projected timeline.

In my opinion, issuing tokens for sale is very similar to crowd-funding, which may also be likened to buying or selling shares on the stock market, without the restrictions or regulations necessarily placed on participants. Whether or not these activities are legal may depend on local jurisdictions. However, as long as no laws are broken for the purposes of making transactions in a business manner, or the proposed ecosystem,  then personal privacy of participants and security should be secured to all qualified participants, which are traits of a crypto-currency like the original Bitcoin.

The tokens offered in the pre-ICO sales are generally intended to fund the business operations, which, if all goes well, will turn a profit and be able to provide token based services. Details of the venture and how proceeds from projected profits are to be distributed are usually outlined in the white paper. Tokens may be able to be openly traded as a currency, depending on various applicable rules and regulations which may apply and being able to be listed on the various exchanges.

For example a current energy token on the market, PowerLedger.io (4) –  is a blockchain-based peer-to-peer energy trading platform enabling consumers and businesses to sell their surplus solar power to their neighbours without a middleman.

<From a Media Press Release>  Power Ledger is based in Perth and uses blockchain technology to allow households to trade excess solar power over the electricity network.

Major Australian power retailer Origin Energy recently announced a three-month trial with Power Ledger to explore the benefits and challenges of peer-to-peer energy trading across a regulated network.

“Blockchain technology and cryptocurrency underpins our business offering and we are excited to be working with Perth-based DigitalX” said Power Ledger Chair Dr Jemma Green.

POWR tokens will be offered via the Ethereum cryptocurrency network in an uncapped price offer, meaning the tokens’ final price will be determined by the market demand.

“POWR will be the Ethereum blockchain protocol token required throughout the Power Ledger eco-system that can be converted to ‘Sparkz’, which is the crypto-currency we have set up for users to trade electricity using the platform,” said Dr Green.

As part of the engagement,DigitalX will introduce cryptocurrency investors to Power Ledger in exchange for a fee which consists of a mix of Ether (ETH) and POWR tokens.

“Blockchain-enabled innovation is disrupting traditional industries and digital currency is changing the way companies access capital. DigitalX is pleased to be able to facilitate this quantum shift in traditional mechanisms for accessing funding,” said Mr Travers.  (5)

Generally speaking, however, most crypto-currencies will have many advantages over fiat currency or stock markets. For one, their trade is not restricted to one market, or country to operate. Beyond anonymity one can store value in one token, exchange it for another, buy services on a network, or hold it speculatively. There are the other aspects related to smart contracts and the block-chain where physical assets or other attributes, such as counting operations of a machine or device can be linked to a token. In fact the possibilities seem endless, only bounded by the limits of imagination.

Cryptocurrency Offerings and Exchanges

Every day I receive more notifications regarding new offerings on a multiple of news feeds. Many of these offerings look good and viable. There are many new white-papers to read, and some are quite technically advanced and detailed in outlook and projections. As more cryptocurrencies are introduced into markets and traded on platforms investments will be expected to continue.

As cryptocurrencies are rapidly gaining acceptance and appeal, the task of evaluating all emerging offerings would be odious without methods of categorization, comparison and establishing legitimacy. At this time, according to the coinmarketcap.com, there are 1257 Cryptocurrencies with a total market cap of $199 Billion USD currently listed on exchanges. Currently there are 121 active exchanges trading cryptocurrencies (5) and in the last 24 hours there was a “volume of 614,489 BTC and $4,396,051,516 on 5915 trading pairs” (6).

Other resources of current token or coin offerings and other related information can be found on various websites, including tokenmarket.net and coinranking.com.

The Future of Cryptocurrency

At the current pace of innovation, new offerings, and investment as determined by market capitalization, it does not appear that current rapid growth in cryptocurrencies  slow down. Rather, examining current trends in cryptocurrency and comparing to models, it appears that we are in the innovation and early adoption phases of a technological innovation, as seen in figure 2. (7)

TechAdoptCurve2

Figure 2. Technological Adoption Curve (7)

In addition to the known bell curve of adoption, the value of the networks being formed on the internet, obeys Metcalfe’s law, see figure 1.

Metcalfe’s law states that the value of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users of the system (n2).

As we can surmise from the effect of Metcalfe’s law as it applies to the development of cryptocurrencies is that we are currently in the earlier phases of value development, which will be expected to grow at an exponential rate associated with a nodal peer to peer model.

220px-Metcalfe-Network-Effect.svg

Two telephones can make only one connection, five can make 10 connections, and twelve can make 66 connections.

For innovators and early adopters these are exciting times as the number of participants continue to grow, and more capital continues to be invested in fledgling commercial enterprises. New business plans for ICO and Token issues are being issued every day. There are technical developments coming, apps, games, lenders and financial instruments, as well as new types of Tokens being issued with a variety of proof’s or calculation methods. Blockchains technology is changing to become increasingly efficient to handle ever increasing numbers of transactions. At this time there appears to be no limit to the possible applications of blockchain technology.

combined_curve

Figure 3. Combined Curve – Crossing the Chasm (1)

[…] The combination of Moore’s and Metcalfe’s laws explains the rise of information technology and the growth of the Internet as we know it today. […] And finally, in an unprecedented apotheosis, by combining the three preceding charts and by ― I have to admit ― visually cheating with axes, scales, and representations I came to the observation that the chasm is actually the point where the transition from a technology driven business to a value driven business needs to take place ― and if this doesn’t happen, that any new product or technology introduction is doomed to fail.

Disclaimers:

Expect that there are traps and pitfalls, some ventures may be fraudulent or simply fail. No guarantees on individual outcomes of ICO’s or other value propositions, and, as in all markets expect that there will be both successes and failures.

Expect, in various regions, government control and regulation, which may attempt to prevent or limit participation by populations or otherwise affect and manipulate markets.

Every participant in any new market, such as a cryptocurrency,  is advised to perform their own due diligence and research before investing capital.

No guarantees or warrantees are implied or expressed by the author, who, may at any time, hold vested interests in a variety of cryptocurrency tokens for speculation or other purposes.

End

References

  1. The Metcalfe Curve
  2. 7 Trends in Cryptocurrency Entrepreneurs Should Know
  3. Blockchain-Technology (for the Built Environment)
  4. How PowerLedger Works -Snapshot
  5. PowerLedger.io Home Page
  6. cryptocoincharts.info
  7. The Early Days of Cryptocurrency

 

Microgrid as a Service (MaaS) and the Blockchain

It is a splendid event to observe when two new technologies combine to create a new marketplace. In recent years as new sources of distributed energy have been entering the electrical grid to provide power they are necessitating a change to the existing large-scale infrastructure model of power supply.

Classic Electric Power Grid Model

Figure 1. Classic electric power grid model with bulk generators transferring power long distances to reach the consumer.  Image courtesy of NetGain Energy Advisors. (1)

The old model utility was large and centralized and tracking transactions was simple as consumers were on one side of the ledger, while the provider as on the other. And whereby currency and energy flowed only in opposite directions between two identified parties, consumer and provider.

In the emerging markets of small-scale independent energy providers, we can see buildings, communities and even individual residences having built capacity to provide intermittently or on demand power at times, and consume or store power from the grid at other times. Solar power is only available during the day, and will require new commercial methods of energy storage.

How-Microgrids-Work

Figure 2. An example Microgrid (2)

In the transition from decentralized utility is the development of the Micro-grid.  The Micro-grid offers many benefits to society, including; (a) use of renewable energy sources that reduce or eliminate the production of GHG’s, (b) increases in energy efficiency of energy transmission due to shortening of transmission distances and infrastructure, (c) improved municipal resilience against disaster and power reductions, and finally, (d) promotion of economic activity that improves universal standard of living.

As buildings and communities evolve they are moving toward renewable energy sources to supplement their energy requirements and reduce operating costs. Even the building codes are getting into the act, requiring buildings be constructed to new energy efficiency standards. Also, we are seeing the development of new technologies and business methods, such as solar powered charging stations for electric vehicles.

The existing electrical grid and utility model has to develop and adapt to these new technologies and means of locally generating power. The future will include the development and incorporation of peer to peer networks and alternative energy supply methods. Consumers may purchase power from multiple sources, and produce power and supply it to other users via the electrical grid.

Micro-grid and the Blockchain

As new energy sources/providers emerge there is added complexity to the network. Consumers of power can also be an energy providers, as well as having different energy sources available. This increased functionality raises the complexity of possible transactions in the network.

Imagine a financial ledger, where each user in the system is no longer constrained to be a consumer, but also a supplier to other users in the system. In order to track both the credits and debits it has been proposed that the exchange of blockchain tokens be utilized to sort out complicated energy transfer transactions in a distributed P2P network.

P2P TRADING

This class of Platform Application gives retailers the ability to empower consumers (or in an unregulated environment, the consumers themselves) to simply trade electricity with one another and receive payment in real-time from an automated and trustless reconciliation and settlement system. There are many other immediate benefits such as being able to select a clean energy source, trade with neighbors, receive more money for excess power, benefit from transparency of all your trades on a blockchain and very low-cost settlement costs all leading to lower power bills and improved returns for investments in distributed renewables. (3)

One blockchain based energy token that has caught my attention is called POWR and is currently in pre-ICO sales of the tokens by the Australian platform Power Ledger. One of the uses of the platform that is being suggested is peer to peer trading.

 “We are absolutely thrilled with the results of the public presale,” says Dr Jemma Green, co-founder and chair of Power Ledger. “Selling out in just over 3 days is a very strong performance in line with global ICO standards, which speaks to the strong levels of interest from consumer and institutional buyers.”

The proceeds from the total pre sale were AU$17 million and the main sale on Friday offers approximately 150 million POWR tokens (subject to final confirmation before the sale opens) in an uncapped sale, meaning that the level of market demand will have set the final token price at the end of the sale. (4)

 

References

  1. The Changing Power Landscape
  2. Siemens – Microgrid Solutions
  3. Power Ledger Applications
  4. PRESS RELEASE Having Closed $17M In Their Presale ICO, Power Ledger Confirm Their Public Sale Will Commence on 8th September 2017

An Engineering Blockchain Cryptocurrency

The revolutionary aspect of the blockchain is starting serious discussions in the Professional Engineering community. Indications are that there are some fundamental problems in Engineering may be solved by the issuance of a token, in this case called Quant (1) and is currently in the “sand-box” phase of development.

The plan, in part, involves mining Quant to create a public key, or data-base called Engipedia.  There is also a “proof-of-stake” (2) aspect, which forms an engineer’s private key summarizing by algorithm the engineer’s personal data such as education, qualifications, projects, and other contributions or related works.

The Quant token, which is proposed to have inherent smart contract capabilities will be mined by engineers in a variety of ways, most of which are intended to establish an expanding  knowledge base, one such enterprise is called Engipedia. This is a knowledge base which has a formidable upside for democratic technological advancement and dissemination of workable knowledge worldwide.

As a virtual currency, the Quant token may provide a necessary bridge to financing that was previously inaccessible to engineers. Often pools of capital are controlled by vested interests or politically minded parties. Economic opportunities, which previously were unavailable due to lack of funding, may now have a financial vehicle for entrepreneurial Engineers.

The Design is the Contract

Engineering is different than finance and insurance. Finance and Insurance merely need to represent a physical object in a party / counter-party transaction script.  There is no design involved. Engineering represents a physical object – the engineering design and specification IS the smart contract. Then, what happens in construction, operations, maintenance, renovation, and replacement is far too complex to be scripted in a single smart contract. Engineering outcomes involve enormous mass, forces, and real-life consequences. (3)

References:

  1. The Market for QUANT
  2. QUANT Proof of Stake
  3. A Warning to Engineering Firms Concerning Blockchain Technology

The BC Energy Step Code – Missing the Point

The BC Energy Step Code is currently being implemented in British Columbia as an answer to future energy considerations in new building construction. It achieves this claim of moving towards “Net Zero” building construction by utilizing a building envelope first approach with modeling and a performance test.

The idea is that by raising a building’s theoretical energy efficiency a building will become a net zero home. In the process, there is a requirement for a certified and licensed energy adviser to be involved in the modeling, construction and testing phases of the building. (1)

In conjunction with this approach is the claim that builders can construct these buildings being “fuel-neutral”. Using this rationale the roles of mechanical systems design, testing and commissioning are omitted in the performance considerations of the building.

However, a net-zero building must include the omitted systems as the design and operation of necessary systems. These may include the ventilation and exhaust systems, water heating, laundry, and heating systems. Also, rain-water collection for irrigation and gray water systems or other load reduction schemes may all may contribute to the energy consumption and success of a “net zero” building.

Some of these services will always be required in a municipal setting such as electrical, water and waste. Reduction strategies are advised as further increases in population will add additional loads at existing consumption rates which might overload existing supply and waste systems infrastructure such as pipes and cable.

The final answer to how a building performs will be in the overall utility bills paid by the building for its operation. This includes the electrical power, gas consumption, solid and liquid waste disposal and water supplied. Unless you live in a remote rural area where none of these services are provided by a municipality, there will always be a design component of the mechanical systems that contributes to the operation of an energy efficient home.

References:

  1. How the BC Energy Step Code Works

 

Sustainable Smart Cities and Disaster Mitigation – Preparing for the 1000 Year Storm

Hurricanes Cause Massive Damage

In light of recent events, such as the current hurricane season of 2017 which has already struck large sections of Texas with Hurricane Harvey causing massive damage which has been estimated at $180 billion by Texas Governor Greg Abbott (1) there are questions about how we can prepare cities better for disaster. One method considered is in our building codes, which are constantly being upgraded and improved, by constructing buildings to be more resilient and handle harsher conditions.

There is a limit to what a building code can do and enforce. Areas and regions that have seen widespread destruction, will have to be rebuilt.  However, to what standards? The existing building codes will have to be examined for their efficacy in storm-proofing buildings to withstand the effects of high winds and water penetration, some of which has already been performed.

Codes do not prevent external disasters such as from storms, tornadoes, tidal waves (tsunami), earthquakes, forest fire, lightning, landslides, nuclear melt-down and other extreme natural and man-made events. What building codes do is establish minimum standards of construction for various types of buildings and structures. Damage to buildings, vehicles, roads, power systems and other components of a city’s infrastructure are vulnerable to flooding which cannot be addressed in a building code. Other standards are needed to address this problem.

Storm-Proofing Cities

Other issues arise regarding flooding, and how water can be better managed in the future to mitigate water collection and drainage. These may require higher levels of involvement across a community and perhaps beyond municipal constraints, requiring state-wide developments. Breakwaters, sea walls, levees, spill ways and other forms of structures may be added to emergency pumping stations and micro-grid generator/storage facilities as examples of infrastructure improvements that could be utilized.

Bigger decisions may have to be considered as to the level of reconstruction of buildings in vulnerable areas. Sea warming as noted occurring has some scientists pondering if there is a connection between global warming and increased storm volatility as indicated by water temperature rises and tidal records (2). If bigger and more frequent storms are to come, then it must be considered in future building and infrastructure planning.

Regional Infrastructure and Resiliency

Exposed regions as well as larger, regional concerns in areas of maintaining power, roadways, and diverting and draining water are major in the resiliency of a community. When a social network breaks down, there is much lost, and recovery of a region can be adversely affected by loss of property and work.

Many of the lower classes will not have insurance and lose everything. Sick and elderly can be especially exposed, not having means to prepare or escape an oncoming disaster, and many will likely perish unless they can get access to aide or a shelter quickly.

Constructing better sea walls and storm surge barriers may be an effective means to diverting water in the event of a hurricane on densely populated coastal areas. Although considered costly to construct, they are a fraction of the cost of damage that may be caused by a high, forceful storm surge which can obliterate large unprotected populated areas. The Netherlands and England have made major advancements in coastal preparedness for storms.

Storm Surge Barriers

Overall Effectiveness for Reducing Flood Damage

There are only a few storm surge barriers in the United States, although major systems installed abroad demonstrate their efficacy. The Eastern Scheldt barrier in the Netherlands (completed in 1986) and the Thames barrier in the United Kingdom (completed in 1982) have prevented major flooding. Lavery and Donovan (2005) note that the Thames barrier, part of a flood risk reduction system of barriers, floodgates, floodwalls, and embankments, has reliably protected the City of London from North Sea storm surge since its completion.

Four storm surge barriers were constructed by the USACE in New England in the 1960s (Fox Point, Stamford, New Bedford, and Pawcatuck) and a fifth in 1986 in New London, Connecticut. The barriers were designed after a series of severe hurricanes struck New England in 1938, 1944, and 1954 (see Appendix B), which highlighted the vulnerability of the area. The 1938 hurricane damaged or destroyed 200,000 buildings and caused 600 fatalities (Morang, 2007; Pielke et al., 2008).

The 2,880-ft (878-m) Fox Point Barrier (Figure 1-8) stretches across

the Providence River, protecting downtown Providence, Rhode Island. The barrier successfully prevented a 2-ft (0.6-m) surge elevation (in excess of tide elevation) from Hurricane Gloria in 1985 and a 4-ft (1.2-m) surge from Hurricane Bob in 1991 (Morang, 2007) and was also used during Hurricane Sandy. The New Bedford, Massachusetts, Hurricane Barrier consists of a 4,500-ft-long (1372-m) earthen levee with a stone cap to an elevation of 20 ft (6 m), with a 150-ft-wide (46-m) gate for navigation. The barrier was reportedly effective during Hurricane Bob (1991), an unnamed coastal storm in 1997 (Morang, 2007), and Hurricane Sandy. During Hurricane Sandy, the peak total height of water (tide plus storm surge) was 6.8 feet (2.1 m), similar to the levels reached in 1991 and 1997. The Stamford, Connecticut, Hurricane Barrier has experienced six storms producing a surge of 9.0 ft (2.7 m) or higher between its completion (1969) and Hurricane Sandy. During Hurricane Sandy, the barrier experienced a storm surge of 11.1 ft (3.4 m), exceeding that of the 1938 hurricane (USACE, 2012). (3)

The biggest challenge is to build storm surge barriers large enough for future Hurricanes. There is a question that given the magnitude of current and future storms that these constructed barriers may be breached.  Engineers design structures to meet certain standards, and with weather these were the unlikely 1 in 100 year storm events. However, this standard is not good enough as Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana exemplified, as being rated a 1 in 250 year storm event. With climate changes these events may become more frequent.

Much of the damage from Katrina came not from high winds or rain but from storm surge that caused breaches in levees and floodwalls, pouring water into 80 percent of New Orleans. To the south, Katrina flooded all of St. Bernard Parish and the east bank of Plaquemines Parish. Plaquemines Parish flooded again in 2012 with Hurricane Isaac.

Soon after Katrina, Congress directed the Corps of Engineers to build a system that could protect against a storm that has a 1 percent chance of happening each year, a “1-in-100-year” storm.

The standard is less a measure of safety and more a benchmark that allows the city to be covered by the National Flood Insurance Program. Louisiana’s master coastal plan calls for a much stronger 500-year system. The corps says Katrina was a 250-year storm for the New Orleans area.

Since 2005, the Army Corps has revamped the storm protection system’s 350 miles of levees and floodwalls, 73 pumping stations, three canal-closure structures, and four gated outlets. The corps built a much-heralded 26-foot-high, 1.8-mile surge barrier in Lake Borgne, about 12 miles east of the center of the city.

During Katrina, a 15- to 16-foot-high storm surge in Lake Borgne forced its way into the Intracoastal Waterway, putting pressure on the Industrial Canal levees that breached and caused catastrophic flooding in the city’s Lower 9th Ward.

“In New Orleans, we know that no matter how high we build this or how wide we build it, eventually there will be a storm that’s able to overtop it,” New Orleans District Army Corps spokesman Ricky Boyett says, admiring the immense surge barrier from a boat on Lake Borgne. “What we want is this to be a strong structure that will be able to withstand that with limited to no damage from the overtopping.” (4)

500 Year Floods

Hurricane Harvey brought an immense amount of extreme rain, which brought a record 64″ in one storm to the Houston metropolitan region. This is a staggering amount of water, over 5 feet in height, this amount of water could only overwhelm low-lying areas, and depressions in topography. Flash floods can happen during extreme storms, where a drainage system is designed for a 1:100 year flood event, and not for a 1:500 or 1:1000 year flood event. Road ways can easily become rivers as drainage systems back up and surface water has no place to collect.

500-year-floods

Figure 1. 500 year flood events in the USA since 2015 (5)

New standards in development may need to accommodate more stringent standards. Existing municipal drainage systems are not designed to handle extreme rain and other means of drainage systems may have to be developed to divert water away from centers of population. Communities will be built to new standards, where storm water management is given a higher priority to avert flooding.

BN-UX285_HARVEY_M_20170831100012

Figure 2. Floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey (6)

Given the future uncertainty of our climate and weather, we cannot continue to ignore the devastating effects that disasters have on cities and regions. We must ask some difficult questions regarding the intelligence of continuing to build and live in increasingly higher risk regions.

On a personal level every citizen must take some responsibility in their choices of where to live. As for governments they need to decide how best to allocate limited resources in rebuilding and upgrading storm protection systems. It is anticipated that some areas will be abandoned as risks become too high for effective protection from future storm events.

The Oil and Gas Industry

It seems there is an irony involved with the possibility that storms severity is linked to global warming, and that access to vulnerable regions often are in part economically driven by the oil and gas industry.  Hurricane Harvey is the most recent storm which is affecting fuel prices across the USA. Refinery capacity has shrunk due to plant shut-downs.  Shortages in local fuel supplies are occurring, as remaining gasoline stations run dry.

Goldman Sachs estimates that the hurricane has taken 3 million barrels a day — or about 17% — of refining capacity offline, and that’s likely to increase the overall level of crude-oil inventories over the next couple of months. (7)

Oil and gas are particularly vulnerable to exposure to the weather, and it is in their own best interests to provide local protection to the area so that they can continue extracting the resource. However, ancillary industries such as refining may better be served by relocation away from danger areas. Also, supply lines become choked by disaster, and can potentially have consequences beyond the region which was exposed to the disaster.

The Electric Vehicle in the Smart City

Such events can only put upward pressure on the price of fuel, while providing further incentive to move away from the internal combustion engine as means of motive power. Electric vehicles would provide a much better ability to recover quickly from storm events as they are not restricted by access to fuel. Micro-grids in cities provide sectors of available power for which electric emergency response vehicles can move.

By moving reliance away from carbon based fuels to renewable electric sources and energy storage, future development in cities may see the benefits inherent in the electric vehicle. Burning fuels create heat, water and carbon dioxide in the combustion process. They consume our breathable oxygen and pollute the atmosphere. Pipelines, tankers and rail cars can break and spill causing pollution. Exploration causes damage to the environment.

A city that is energy efficient and reliant on renewable sources of energy that benignly interact with the environment can approach self-sustainability and a high degree of resilience against disaster. This combined with designing to much higher standards which keep in mind the current volatility our climate is experiencing, and uses the lessons learned in other areas as indicators of best practices into the future.

 

References

  1. Hurricane Harvey Damages Could Cost up to $180 Billion
  2. Global warming is ‘causing more hurricanes’
  3. “3 Performance of Coastal Risk Reduction Strategies.” National Research Council. 2014. Reducing Coastal Risk on the East and Gulf Coasts. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18811.
  4. Rising Sea Levels May Limit New Orleans Adaptation Efforts
  5. Houston is experiencing its third ‘500-year’ flood in 3 years. How is that possible?
  6. Hurricane Harvey Slams Texas With Devastating Force
  7. GOLDMAN: Harvey’s damage to America’s oil industry could last several months

Turning to Net Zero for Buildings – The HERS Index

Over the last few months my time has been occupied with travel and work. Relocation and working in construction has consumed certain amounts of time. In the process I have continued to learn and observe my working environment from the perspective of a mechanical engineer.

I have upgraded some of my technology, investing in a smart phone for it’s utility and ease of connection. However, this newer tech is still not the best for longer term research and curation efforts, such as this blog. I am happy to report I have managed to land a longer term residence which now will provide me the needed stability and access to resources, while I can set up my work space needed for more intensive endeavours.

Now relocated in Vancouver, I have a few projects in the works, and am able to get back to focusing some of my time into my own research and development, to which, is one of the major purposes of my blogging. Next week, on September 25th there is a luncheon course presentation I plan on attending regarding upcoming changes to the BC Building Code introducing The Energy Step Code. More on this topic later after the seminar.

In California we already see the movement on towards the construction of net zero buildings, as compliance to the 2016 Building Energy Standard which applies to “new construction of, and additions and alterations to, residential and nonresidential buildings.” (1) These rules came into effect January 1st, 2017. I will be reviewing this publicly available document and provide more insight and commentary at a later time.

One measure of rating homes for energy efficiency that I have seen often referenced and may be a tool for reporting and rating homes is the HERS Index as shown in the graphic.

Image 1:  HERS Index scale of residential home energy consumption.

As we can see from the scale that there is reference home, so there are calculation needed to rate a home, computer methods are available online where a houses data can be input for a curious homeowner, however qualified ratings are to be done by a qualified HERS Rating technician. These ensure by performance tests that a house meets standards in actual use and perform as claimed.

A comprehensive
HERS home energy rating

The HERS Rater will do a comprehensive HERS home energy rating on your home to assess its energy performance. The energy rating will consist of a series of diagnostic tests using specialized equipment, such as a blower door test, duct leakage tester, combustion analyzer and infrared cameras. These tests will determine:

  • The amount and location of air leaks in the building envelope
  • The amount of leakage from HVAC distribution ducts
  • The effectiveness of insulation inside walls and ceilings
  • Any existing or potential combustion safety issues

Other variables that are taken into account include:

  • Floors over unconditioned spaces (like garages or cellars)
  • Attics, foundations and crawlspaces
  • Windows and doors, vents and ductwork
  • Water heating system and thermostats

Once the tests have been completed, a computerized simulation analysis utilizing RESNET Accredited Rating Software will be used to calculate a rating score on the HERS Index. (3)

As buildings become more expensive and are asked to provide ever more services there will be a movement to make these building more efficient to operate and maintain. As we do more with less, there will be social impacts and repercussions. To some these changes may be disruptive, while enabling newer markets in energy efficiency, renewables, energy storage, micro-grids and net zero buildings, to name a few.

References:

  1. California Building Code Title 24 – 2016 Building Energy Efficiency Standards for Residential and Nonresidential Buildings.
  2. Understanding the HERS Index
  3. How to Get a HERS® Index Score

High Efficiency Clothes Washers

Nowadays we are searching for more ways to be energy efficient at home, work and elsewhere.  Our resources are not infinite, even if they are renewable. And, as such, we should be seeking ways to reduce our energy and water consumption, not only to be a good citizen but also for the money it saves which can be utilized elsewhere.

Yesterday I did my laundry, packed all my smelly and soiled clothes in a plastic garbage and headed off to the laundromat in Canmore. I chose a double loader which cost $4 + another buck for the heavy soiled clothing option. Not sure how this thing worked, I bought two small boxes (it’s a double loader after all so two boxes should do, I thought) of Tide for a buck apiece.
Samsung WF210ANW High Efficiency Washer

Figure 1.  Image of a Samsung’s WF210 HE Washing Machine top loading washing machine. (1)

The instructions on the machine were not clear, so I opened the boxes and sprinkled them on my clothes, set the temp for warm and started the machine. It was a 30 min cycle, and after about 5 minutes I did not see any appreciable amount of water in the washer, also I noticed that there was a slot for the detergent. So, I decided to buy another box of detergent and put it into the pull out. The machine was on 10 minutes now, and still no water… wtf?

Image result for high efficiency washing machine

Figure 2.  Graphic comparing a HE washing machine to a traditional top loader. (2)

Okay, so I call the management which operated the local motel, informing them that the machine is broken, and a girl comes out to see what is going on. She assures me it’s fine and working, that the machine uses very little water. Okay, I am skeptical and concerned that with so much detergent and very little water my clothes would not get clean and be covered with a residue.

In the meantime a nice German lady comes over to me and says that she has never seen a top loader before and they only use front loading machines where she is from. I laughed and told her that in Canada we have a tendency to waste our resources as we have so much, whereas in Germany they have a larger population crammed in a small country. The government of Canada has a tendency to give lip service to energy and water efficiency.

The end result was that the clothes came out brilliantly clean with no residue. Most of the water was spun out and the clothes were only slightly damp, which meant that my dryer time was greatly reduced. The amount of heated water and energy used for drying is greatly reduced. Is it not time to get rid of the energy hogs?

 

References:

(1)  High Efficiency Washing Machines Save Money With Less Water, Energy

(2)  High Efficiency Washing Machine

Energy Certificates and the Blockchain Protocol

In the world of energy production, renewable energy sources, micro grids, large scale users, and other forms of electric power schemes there is a concentrated effort being placed on utilizing the Blockchain protocol.  This is because of the unique way in which a unit may be defined and tracked, similarly, can be associated to tracking quantities of value created and utilized in a complex trading scheme.

In a recent article (1) it has been reported that Jesse Morris, principal for electricity and transportation practices at RMI and co-founder of the Energy Web Foundation (EWF) received $2.5 million to develop the Blockchain protocol for energy purposes.

“We have a strong hypothesis that blockchain will solve a lot of long-running problems in the energy sector,” said Morris. “Overcoming these challenges could make small, incremental changes to energy infrastructure and markets in the near term, while others would be more far-reaching and disruptive.”

Certificates (also known as guarantees) of origin would assure the user that a particular megawatt-hour of electricity was produced from renewables. According to Morris, the U.S. alone has 10 different tracking systems, Asia-Pacific has several more, and each European country has its own system of certification. Blockchain could be used to transparently guarantee the origin of the electrons.

Longer-term, and more radically, RMI sees the future of electricity networks being driven by the billions of energy storage and HVAC units, EVs, solar roof panels and other devices and appliances at the grid edge.

Blockchains can allow any of them to set their own level of participation on the grid, without the need for an intermediary. And crucially, they can be configured so that if a grid operator needs guaranteed capacity, the grid-edge unit can communicate back to the grid whether or not it’s up to the task.

This is an example of what Morris described as blockchain’s ability to “fuse the physical with the virtual” via machine-to-machine communication.  (1)

Another example of the emergence of the usefulness and interest in the Blockchain protocol is in crowdsourcing and distributed ledger applications.

Illustration by Dan Page (2)

At its heart, blockchain is a self-sustaining, peer-to-peer database technology for managing and recording transactions with no central bank or clearinghouse involvement. Because blockchain verification is handled through algorithms and consensus among multiple computers, the system is presumed immune to tampering, fraud, or political control. It is designed to protect against domination of the network by any single computer or group of computers. Participants are relatively anonymous, identified only by pseudonyms, and every transaction can be relied upon. Moreover, because every core transaction is processed just once, in one shared electronic ledger, blockchain reduces the redundancy and delays that exist in today’s banking system.

Companies expressing interest in blockchain include HP, Microsoft, IBM, and Intel. In the financial-services sector, some large firms are forging partnerships with technology-focused startups to explore possibilities. For example, R3, a financial technology firm, announced in October 2015 that 25 banks had joined its consortium, which is attempting to develop a common crypto-technology-based platform. Participants include such influential banks as Citi, Bank of America, HSBC, Deutsche Bank, Morgan Stanley, UniCredit, Société Générale, Mitsubishi UFG Financial Group, National Australia Bank, and the Royal Bank of Canada. Another early experimenter is Nasdaq, whose CEO, Robert Greifeld, introduced Nasdaq Linq, a blockchain-based digital ledger for transferring shares of privately held companies, also in October 2015. (2)

 

References:

  1. Energy Companies look to Blockchain
  2. A Strategist’s Guide to the Blockchain