Research

Building Energy Management

Under Construction

Clean Energy and Renewable Energy Technologies

Increased emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) have the potential to cause climate change and other adverse environmental effects. Research into alternative means of using energy efficiently while minimizing wastes can offset our reliance on fossil fuels that produce GHGs. Distrct energy systems can allow for sources of energy such as waste industrial heat, geothermal, and solar to be harnessed and used efficienctly. Biomass fuels can also be used to replace the combustion of traditional fossil fuels with reduced net carbon emissions. Combining district energy with thermal energy storage can lead to even further improvements.

District Heating & Cooling and Energy Management

District energy (DE) systems produce low pressure steam, hot water, and/or chilled water for use in multiple buildings in a central location. Research has shown that DE systems have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption. This is accomplished by utilizing energy sources that reduce net carbon emissions to the environment, such as biomass fuels, and replacing heating and cooling equipment in individual buildings with higher efficiency equipment at a central location.

At the University of Idaho a DE system is coupled with a TES to provide both heating and cooling needs for campus. A biomass fed boiler supplies over 260 million lbs of steam annually. An absorption chiller allows UI to produce chilled water for the TES utilizing the steam produced as opposed to more expensive electric chillers. Currently, we have been working to develop technological and operational improvements within the UI district energy plant to increase the efficient use of our energy resources, which in turn result in increased sustainability and financial benefits.

Sustainability

Under Construction

Thermal Energy Storage

Thermal Energy Storage (TES) is a means of creating a reservoir of thermal energy by heating or cooling medium. TES presents opportunities for collecting thermal energy during favorable conditions for later use. The University of Idaho campus utilizes a 2 million gallon, above ground storage tank for chilled water storage. This system is charged during the evening and night hours and discharged during the peak daily loads. We are currently studying the effects of stratification within the TES and its influence on chiller performance.

Multiple TES

In some conditions, where issues such as space availability, economics, insulation, or storage media might need to be addressed, it may be adventageous to utilize several thermal energy storage (TESs) instead of a single one. Research has shown that TESs in parallel configurations behave independently, suggesting that different storage media or sizes could be used while series TES configurations are connected. An m by n grid of TESs will have varying levels of performance based on its configuration.