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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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

 

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

Hybrid Electric Buildings; A New Frontier for Energy and Grids

.OneMaritimePlaza-300x225 PeakerPlantSanFranHybrid Electric Buildings are the latest in developments for packaged energy storage in buildings which offer several advantages including long-term operational cost savings. These buildings have the flexibility to combine several technologies and energy sources in with a large-scale integrated electric battery system to operate in a cost-effective manner.

San Francisco’s landmark skyscraper, One Maritime Plaza, will become the city’s first Hybrid Electric Building using Tesla Powerpack batteries. The groundbreaking technology upgrade by Advanced Microgrid Solutions (AMS) will lower costs, increase grid and building resiliency, and reduce the building’s demand for electricity from the sources that most negatively impact the environment.

Building owner Morgan Stanley Real Estate Investing hired San Francisco-based AMS to design, build, and operate the project. The 500 kilowatt/1,000 kilowatt-hour indoor battery system will provide One Maritime Plaza with the ability to store clean energy and control demand from the electric grid. The technology enables the building to shift from grid to battery power to conserve electricity in the same way a hybrid-electric car conserves gasoline. (1)

In addition to storage solutions these buildings can offer significant roof area to install solar panel modules and arrays to generate power during the day.  Areas where sunshine is plentiful and electricity rates are high, solar PV and storage combinations for commercial installations are economically attractive.

For utility management, these systems are ideal in expansion of the overall grid, as more micro-grids attach to the utility infrastructure overall supply and resiliency is improved.

In recent developments AMS has partnered with retailer Wal-Mart to provide on-site and “behind the meter” energy storage solutions for no upfront costs.

solar-panels-roof-puerto-rico.png

Figure 2.  Solar Panels on Roof of Wal-Mart, Corporate Headquarters, Puerto Rico (3)

On Tuesday, the San Francisco-based startup announced it is working with the retail giant to install behind-the-meter batteries at stores to balance on-site energy and provide megawatts of flexibility to utilities, starting with 40 megawatt-hours of projects at 27 Southern California locations.

Under the terms of the deal, “AMS will design, install and operate advanced energy storage systems” at the stores for no upfront cost, while providing grid services and on-site energy savings. The financing was made possible by partners such as Macquarie Capital, which pledged $200 million to the startup’s pipeline last year.

For Wal-Mart, the systems bring the ability to shave expensive peaks, smooth out imbalances in on-site generation and consumption, and help it meet a goal of powering half of its operations with renewable energy by 2025. Advanced Microgrid Solutions will manage its batteries in conjunction with building load — as well as on-site solar or other generation — to create what it calls a “hybrid electric building” able to keep its own energy costs to a minimum, while retaining flexibility for utility needs.

The utility in this case is Southern California Edison, a long-time AMS partner, which “will be able to tap into these advanced energy storage systems to reduce demand on the grid as part of SCE’s groundbreaking grid modernization project,” according to Tuesday’s statement. This references the utility’s multibillion-dollar grid modernization plan, which is now before state regulators.  (2)

References:

  1. San Francisco’s First Hybrid Electric Building – Facility Executive, June 28, 2016
    https://facilityexecutive.com/2016/06/skyscraper-will-be-san-franciscos-first-hybrid-electric-building/

  2. Wal-Mart, Advanced Microgrid Solutions to Turn Big-Box Stores Into Hybrid Electric Buildings, GreenTech Media, April 11, 2017  https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/wal-mart-to-turn-big-box-stores-into-hybrid-electric-buildings?utm_source=Daily&utm_medium=Newsletter&utm_campaign=GTMDaily

  3. Solar Panels on Wal-Mart Roof  http://corporate.walmart.com/_news_/photos/solar-panels-roof-puerto-rico

Benchmarking Buildings by Energy Use Intensity (EUI)

There are many metrics and measurements when it comes to evaluating energy as we use it in our daily lives.  In order to compare between different sources or end uses we often have to make conversions in our terms so that our comparisons are equitable.  This may be further complicated as different countries often use different standards of measure, however, we will convert to common units.

Benchmarking

Benchmarking is the practice of comparing the measured performance of a device, process, facility, or organization to itself, its peers, or established norms, with the goal of informing and motivating performance improvement. When applied to building energy use, benchmarking serves as a mechanism to measure energy performance of a single building over time, relative to other similar buildings, or to modeled simulations of a reference building built to a specific standard (such as an energy code). (1)

Benchmarking is a common practice in buildings to establish existing consumption rates and to identify areas that require improvement and to help prioritize improvement projects.  These benchmarks can be established for a building, system within a building, or even a larger campus, facility or power source.  Usually an energy or facility manager will determine energy consumption over a fixed period of time, 1 to 3 years, and compare it to similar facilities.  Normalized by gross square footage of the building the EUI is usually expressed as kBtu/sf per year.

Energy Intensity (EI) of a Country

Figure 1:  Energy Intensity of different economies The graph shows the amount of energy it takes to produce a US $ of GNP for selected countries. (2)

Not to be confused with Energy Use Intensity, Energy Intensity is an economic measure of energy use normalized by the GDP of a country and is considered a measure of a Nation’s Energy Efficiency.  Countries with a high EI have a higher cost to convert energy into GDP, whereas countries with low EI have lower costs of converting energy into GDP.  Many factors contribute to the EI value, including climate, energy sources and  economic productivity. (2)

Energy Use Intensity (EUI)

The EUI of a building includes the electrical power use and heating fuel consumption for heating and hot water generation.  Many facilities require different loads according to their primary use or function, including cooling and refrigeration.  For the comfort of occupants electricity is needed for lighting and plug loads to meet the functioning needs of the equipment in the facility.  Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) may require electricity or another fuel such as natural gas.  Hot water may be generated with electricity or a fuel.  A site may also have solar PV or hot water, wind power, and daylighting programs.  There are also many strategies which may be employed by building operators to reduce loads and energy consumption including controls, storage, micro-grid, purchasing offsets, etc.

When comparing buildings, people not only talk about total energy demands, but also talk about “energy use intensity” (EUI).  Energy intensiveness is simply energy demand per unit area of the building’s floorplan, usually in square meters or square feet. This allows you to compare the energy demand of buildings that are different sizes, so you can see which performs better.

EUI is a particularly useful metric for setting energy use benchmarks and goals. The EUI usually varies quite a bit based on the building program, the climate, and the building size. (3)

Image result

Figure 2.  Typical EUI for selected buildings.  This graph is based on research EPA conducted on more than 100,000 buildings (4)

Site Energy vs Source Energy

As we go forward into the future, it is rather unclear how current events will affect the international agreements on reducing carbon consumption.  However, generally speaking, renewable energy sources are seen to becoming more economic for power production.  For many facilities this means that supplementing existing grid sources for power with on-site power production is making economic sense.  Future building improvements may include sub-systems, batteries and energy storage schemes, renewable sources or automated or advanced control systems to reduce reliance on grid sourced power.

The energy intensity values in the tables above only consider the amount of electricity and fuel that are used on-site (“secondary” or “site” energy). They do not consider the fuel consumed to generate that heat or electricity. Many building codes and some tabulations of EUI attempt to capture the total impact of delivering energy to a building by defining the term  “primary” or “source” energy which includes the fuel used to generate power on-site or at a power plant far away.

When measuring energy used to provide thermal or visual comfort, site energy is the most useful measurement. But when measuring total energy usage to determine environmental impacts, the source energy is the more accurate measurement.

Sometimes low on-site energy use actually causes more energy use upstream.  For example, 2 kWh of natural gas burned on-site for heat might seem worse than 1 kWh of electricity used on-site to provide the same heating with a heat pump.  However, 1 kWh of site electricity from the average US electrical grid is equal to 3.3 kWh of source energy, because of inefficiencies in power plants that burn fuel for electricity, and because of small losses in transmission lines.  So in fact the 2 kWh of natural gas burned on site is better for heating. The table below provides the conversion factors assumed by the US Environmental Protection Agency for converting between site and source energy. (3)

References:

(1) BUILDING ENERGY USE BENCHMARKING  https://energy.gov/eere/slsc/building-energy-use-benchmarking

(2) ENERGY INTENSITY  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_intensity

(3) MEASURING BUILDING ENERGY USE  https://sustainabilityworkshop.autodesk.com/buildings/measuring-building-energy-use

(4) WHAT IS ENERGY USE INTENSITY (EUI)?  https://www.energystar.gov/buildings/facility-owners-and-managers/existing-buildings/use-portfolio-manager/understand-metrics/what-energy

Energy Efficiency Sector Ranks #1 in Job Growth by DOE

 

UNEP-Green-Economy-employment-energy-550x242

Figure 1:  Projected Job Growth by Sectors – Green Economy Report, 2011 (1)

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Energy today released the agency’s first annual analysis of how changes in America’s energy profile are affecting national employment in multiple energy sectors. By using a combination of existing energy employment data and a new survey of energy sector employers, the inaugural U.S. Energy and Employment Report (USEER) provides a broad view of the national current energy employment landscape.

USEER examines four sectors of the economy — electric power generation and fuels; transmission, wholesale distribution, and storage; energy efficiency; and motor vehicles — which cumulatively account for almost all of the United States’ energy production and distribution system and roughly 70 percent of U.S. energy consumption. By looking at such a wide portion of the energy economy, USEER can provide the public and policy makers with a clearer picture of how changes in energy technology, systems, and usage are affecting the economy and creating or displacing jobs.

Some key findings of the report include:

3.64 million Americans work in traditional energy industries, including production, transmission, distribution, and storage.
Of these, 600,000 employees contribute to the production of low-carbon electricity, including renewable energy, nuclear energy and low emission natural gas.
An additional 1.9 million Americans are employed, in whole or in part, in energy efficiency.
Roughly 30 percent of the 6.8 million employees in the U.S. construction industry work on energy or building energy efficiency projects.

A copy of the full report is available HERE.

The report also found several energy industries with projected increases in new jobs. Responding to the USEER survey of employers, the energy efficiency sector predicted hiring rates of 14 percent in 2016, or almost 260,000 new hires. Projected hiring rates were at 5 percent within the electric power generation and fuels sector, reflecting overall growth despite a loss of employment in 2015 in the oil and natural gas extraction sectors. Transmission, wholesale distribution, and storage firms anticipate 4 percent employment growth in 2016. Solar energy firms predicted 15 percent job growth over the next year.

Yet even as the report found the opportunity for job growth in many energy sectors, over 70 percent of all employers surveyed found it “difficult or very difficult” to hire new employees with needed skills.

“The transformation of our energy system and the growth of energy efficiency technologies are creating opportunities for thousands of new jobs, especially in energy efficiency and solar,” said David Foster, Senior Advisor on Energy and Industrial Policy at the Department of Energy.  “This report gives an important snapshot of energy employment in America, and subsequent reports will provide better information to guide policies and priorities that create new jobs, appropriately train workers, and promote a successful national energy policy.” …” (1)

“…As a rule of thumb, investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency generate about 3 times the amount of jobs that other energy related investments create (gas, oil, coal, nuclear). Average numbers of jobs created per million euro invested (3CSEP):

  • Building retrofits: 17
  • Renewable energy: 15
  • Coal: 7
  • Oil and gas: 5

[…] (2)

poschen_chart2.jpg

Figure 2:  Job Generators Comparison Chart (3)

“[…] While much of the debate on climate change and employment has focused on renewables, another and more significant source of jobs from decarbonization has received much less attention. Substantial efficiency gains are technically feasible and economically viable in industry, housing, transportation, and services. Businesses can make a profit and households can enjoy real savings. And spending the surplus on things other than fossil energy will boost an economy’s employment.

For example, the United States is a diversified economy that imports substantial amounts of equipment for renewables. A recent study carefully considered economy-wide effects of reducing emissions by 40 percent by 2030 through a mix of clean energy and energy efficiency (Pollin and others, 2014). It concluded that $200 billion a year in investment would generate a net gain of about 2.7 million jobs: 4.2 million in environmental goods and service sectors and their supply chains but 1.5 million lost in the shrinking fossil- and energy-intensive sectors. The net gain of 2.7 million jobs would reduce the unemployment rate in the 2030 U.S. labor market by about 1.5 percentage points—for example, from 6.5 percent to 5 percent. The authors consider this a conservative estimate; for example, it does not take into account the 1.2 to 1.8 million jobs likely gained from reinvested savings.

Other studies show similar results. A review of 30 studies covering 15 countries and the European Union as a whole found appreciable actual or potential net gains in employment (Poschen, 2015). Most studies considering emission targets in line with the ambitions announced for a Paris agreement in December find net gains on the order of 0.5 to 2.0 percent of total employment, or 15 million to 60 million additional jobs. In emerging market economies such as Brazil, China, Mauritius, and South Africa, green investment was found to accelerate economic growth and employment generation when compared with business as usual. Several studies suggest that more ambitious climate targets would generate greater gains in employment (for a discussion of particular countries, see Poschen, 2015). […]” (3)

References:

(1)  http://bit.ly/1RsVAdc

(2) http://1.usa.gov/1Tby7lt

(3) http://bit.ly/1RlUaV8

 

California Water Conservation Causing A Sewer & Plumbing Pipe Crisis

“Shorter showers, more efficient toilets and other reductions in indoor water usage have meant less wastewater flowing through sewer pipes, [California] sanitation officials say. With less flow to flush the solids down the system, those solids are collecting and can eventually damage pipes.”

Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.expresssewer.com

” […]

Less Water Flow Means Greater Pipe Degradation

As home and business owners throughout California use various methods to cut water consumption both in and out of their properties, less water is then available to cycle through sewer systems. Lower sewer flow then makes it difficult for waste materials, oils water and other contaminants to cycle through. Best case scenario, this can result in minor sewer buildup or blockage; worst case, it can cause severe clogging, corrosion and pipe breakage at weak joints.

With corrosion comes increased pipe repair and replacement costs. Otherwise healthy sewer pipes will fail prematurely as clogs and chemicals remain stagnant within pipes.

Decreased water flow due to conservation is a particularly troubling problem in Sacramento, where the municipal sewer system is relatively flat compared to other cities in the state. With a flat sewer system, it is already difficult for water and materials to flow at a normal rate; when this rate is lowered, and gravity cannot help waste and waste water along, there is little to push solid materials along.

The people of Sacramento, in this case, are stuck between a rock and a hard place: water has to be conserved in light of the unrelenting draught, and doing so creates hazards for the entire city sewer system.

Dealing With the Issues

One way Sacramento residents can help reduce the likelihood of sewer clogging during low water flow periods is by changing the way they use their plumbing systems – overall reducing the amount of non-fluid materials that enter sewer systems.

This includes knowing what kinds of things you should not flush or dispose of through the sink, such as:

Baby wipes or other kinds of “flushable” wipes – they’re not really flushable, and actually cause millions of dollars in sewer damage annuallyStarchy food products or peelsAny plastic materials, including wrapping or casesPaper towels

Beyond better flushing practices, also steer clear from using chemicals or commercial drain cleaning products, as these products can eat away at sewer pipes from within, causing extra difficulties for pipes with low-flow or stagnant water. […]”<

See on Scoop.itGreen Building Operations – Systems & Controls, Maintenance & Commissioning

Transparent Solar Cells Could Turn Office Tower Windows and Mobile Devices Into Power Sources

“It’s a whole new way of thinking about solar energy,” says startup CEO about using transparent solar cells on buildings and electronics.

Sourced through Scoop.it from: news.nationalgeographic.com

>” […] With the help of organic chemistry, transparent solar pioneers have set out to tackle one of solar energy’s greatest frustrations. Although the sun has by far the largest potential of any energy resource available to civilization, our ability to harness that power is limited. Photovoltaic panels mounted on rooftops are at best 20 percent efficient at turning sunlight to electricity.

Research has boosted solar panel efficiency over time. But some scientists argue that to truly take advantage of the sun’s power, we also need to expand the amount of real estate that can be outfitted with solar, by making cells that are nearly or entirely see-through.

“It’s a whole new way of thinking about solar energy, because now you have a lot of potential surface area,” says Miles Barr, chief executive and co-founder of Silicon Valley startup Ubiquitous Energy, a company spun off by researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and  Michigan State University. “You can let your imagination run wild. We see this eventually going virtually everywhere.”

Invisible Spectrum Power

Transparent solar is based on a fact about light that is taught in elementary school: The sun transmits energy in the form of invisible ultraviolet and infrared light, as well as visible light. A solar cell that is engineered only to capture light from the invisible ends of the spectrum will allow all other light to pass through; in other words, it will appear transparent.

Organic chemistry is the secret to creating such material. Using just the simple building blocks of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and a few other elements found in all life on Earth, scientists since at least the early 1990s have been working on designing arrays of molecules that are able to transport electrons—in other words, to transmit electric current.  […]

Harvesting only the sun’s invisible rays, however, means sacrificing efficiency. That’s why Kopidakis says his team mainly focuses on creating opaque organic solar cells that also capture visible light, though they have worked on transparent solar with a small private company in Maryland called Solar Window Technologies that hopes to market the idea for buildings.

Ubiquitous Energy’s team believes it has hit on an optimal formulation that builds on U.S. government-supported research published by the MIT scientists in 2011.

“There is generally a direct tradeoff  between transparency and efficiency levels,” says Barr. “With the approach we’re taking, you can still get a significant amount of energy at high transparency levels.”

Barr says that Ubiquitous is on track to achieve efficiency of more than 10 percent—less than silicon, but able to be installed more widely. “There are millions and millions of square meters of glass surfaces around us,” says Barr. […]”<

See on Scoop.itGreen Building Design – Architecture & Engineering

Venture Capital from GE, Autodesk Invest in Smart Building Technology Boom

Sales of smart building technologies almost could triple to $17.4 billion between 2014 and 2019. That’s driving a flood of investment from corporations and venture capitalists alike.

Source: www.greenbiz.com

>” […] As of this week, you can add cloud software company Lucid to the list of energy-efficiency startups — particularly those that monitor building power consumption for lighting and climate-control systems — attracting substantial cash infusions this year.

Among those contributing to the $14.2 million Series B round disclosed by Lucid this week: GE Ventures, Autodesk, Formation 8 and Zetta Venture Partners.

Lucid plans to use the new funds for enhancements to BuildingOS, a cloud service that analyzes data from more than 160 hardware and software building technologies.

“Lucid’s technology is rapidly connecting many disparate building systems together, making the vision of truly connected buildings and real-time management possible,” said Ben Sampson, an associate with GE Ventures.

Its reference accounts include Genentech, along with more than a half-dozen educational institutions such as Cornell University and Stanford University.

Lucid joins a respectable list of companies attracting private capital this year, as businesses and organizations become more comfortable with gathering data from the Internet of Things.

Research firm Mercom Capital Group reports that startups focused on smart grid and energy efficiency raised more than $325 million in the first quarter.

Two deals last quarter that explicitly focused on building management or analytics: Blue Pillar, which scored a $14 million deal after more than 250 deployments; and Enbala Power Networks, which raised $11 million.

All told, the last year has been incredibly active in the sector, reaching $944 million in 2014. Those investments covered more than 111 deals at a time when the broader field of cleantech has suffered a decline in available capital, according to a separate report from Lux Research.

“While cleantech is declining from its peak of 291 deals in 2008, building energy deals have risen steadily since then, growing by 208 percent over the same period,” Lux wrote in its presentation about funding trends.

One of the more notable deals over the past two years was Distech Controls, which raised about $37 million in May 2013. […]

Why so active?

The spike in funding reflects the rather bullish revenue projects for building energy management technologies over the next decade. Depending on how broadly you view the market, projections vary dramatically.

If you focus just on building energy management, revenue is likely to reach around $2.4 billion this year, growing almost fivefold to $10.8 billion by 2024, according to the forecast from Navigant Research.

Players in the space include not only a slew of startups, but also multinational companies such as Siemans and Intel.

“Building energy management systems (BEMS) represent an important evolutionary step in the approach to facilities and operations management,” said Casey Talon, senior analyst, commenting on that projection. “As the market matures, more integrated and sophisticated BEMS solutions are delivering energy efficiency improvements while also enabling comprehensive business intelligence and strategic management.”

Indeed, if you consider smart buildings from a more holistic perspective, the growth potential is much larger — up to $17.4 billion by 2019, compared with $6.3 billion last year, according to IDC Energy Insights. In North America, spending is being driven by large corporate operational efficiency initiatives. “<

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Bosch Buys Arizona Building Technology Firm

“Climatec is an independent single-source integrator of critical building systems including energy services, building automation and security system integration in the U.S. market. The company provides consulting, planning, implementation and around-the-clock remote management of comprehensive comfort, security, safety and efficiency solutions. Climatec is active in education, healthcare, the public sector, industrial/manufacturing, computing services, office buildings, federal, state and local government, hospitality and energy.”

TechCentury.com

FARMINGTON HILLS — Farmington Hills-based Robert Bosch North America Corp. has acquired Climatec LLC, a Phoenix, Ariz.-based provider of energy efficiency, building automation, security and safety products and services.

Climatec generated sales of $170 million in 2013, and according to preliminary figures hit $190 million in sales in 2014. The company employs 670 people at 12 offices in Arizona, California, Nevada and Texas.

Climatec has been owned by Pegasus Capital Advisors, L.P. since April 2012. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

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