(click here for an Executive Summary
The Clean Energy Research Center has created a lab which will prototype, test and validate various solar and CHP (Combined Heat & Power)
systems for integration into the built environment. This will involve testing of various thermally activated cooling concepts, including desiccant dehumidification, indirect evaporative cooling, and dew point cooling with the M-Cycle.
With the advent of low cost natural gas, there is a need to better utilize this low carbon fuel in building energy systems. Although serious issues remain with hydraulic fracturing gas extraction methods as well as methane release in the extraction, refining and transmission of natural gas, methane has the potential to dramatically reduce green house gas emissions world wide.
Small scale distributed generation and thermally activated cooling technologies allow for electric power and air conditioning loads to be served in addition to the more conventional heating and domestic hot water loads. The ultimate goal will be to transition from natural gas fuel to solar thermal and hybrid solar PV-thermal systems.
One exciting area of research involves efficient ways to move ambient earth or atmospheric energy into and out of buildings. Refrigeration cycle heat pumps are the current state of the art to move heat out of buildings and food refrigerators. This state of the art uses fossil fuel, grid transmission infrastructure, and ozone depleting CFC refrigerants. An improvement is to use the cool and steady earth temperature, in the Ground Source Heat Pump application
. This option was used in our Human Health Building geothermal / solar thermal hybrid building.
|Another exciting opportunity is to use the latent heat of evaporation of
water to reject energy into the ambient air without the use of
refrigerants or compressors. If you have dry air, in a U.S. climate
west of the Mississippi River, direct evaporative or indirect
evaporative will allow you to cool or down the air's wet bulb
temperature for efficient space cooling. The wet bulb is the saturation
temperature of air where it can no longer absorb any additional water
moisture. However, techniques and products exist to coax heat transfer
beyond the wet bulb, down to the dew point, and can do so without adding
moisture to the conditioned air stream. We are also doing research to
go beyond the wet bulb, by using desiccants and water reclamation. A
scientist and entrepreneur who has done a significant amount of work in
this field is Dr. Prof. Valeriy Maisotsenko. His thermodynamic process, the Maisotsenko Cycle
(M-Cycle) has a patented, innovative technique efficiently transfer
heat beyond the capability of conventional heat exchangers and
evaporative cooling. The M-Cycle can be used in multiple technologies
including heat exchangers, cooling towers, engine power cycles,
water desalination, and comfort cooling air conditioners, providing
significant improvements beyond current state of the art. The space
cooling option has been commercialized and is presently available from
the Coolerado Corporation. Click here for a video showing how the Coolerado M-Cycle cooler works. NREL and the DOE has studied this technology in detail. Click on the image to the right for an example, or contact Jim Leidel for more information.
The goal is to use CHP, and ultimately solar energy, to heat, cool, and power Net Zero Energy (NZE) Buildings. The obtain this goal, the ESAIL is validating a lab scale Dew Point Air Conditioning System
, using a thermally activated desiccant, indirect evaporative dew point cooler with water reclamation. This system could be deployed anywhere in the world, in any climate, running off a small solar PV system to power a fan for cool air distribution. Harmful CFC's and complex high pressure refrigeration systems are completely eliminated.
Below are illustrations of solar thermal & CHP driven desiccant M-Cycle dew point cooling systems. The ESAIL is validating the closed loop water recovery option to make this a truly sustainable technology, deployable worldwide.
| micro CHP with M-Cycle dew point cooling
| Schematic of a solar/CHP dew point cooling system