Clean-tech solutions provide for resilient, energy-smart buildings

Oct. 27, 2017

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As many industries struggle to keep up with the rapid pace of technological advancement, designers, planners and architects are increasingly focusing on sustainable, energy-smart buildings that can withstand extreme weather events. Cities need to prioritize resiliency when building or updating their infrastructure to help ensure they are disaster-proof and ready for the next catastrophic weather event.

The use of alternative energies, like solar power and onsite storage to ensure the continuity of building operations and an uninterrupted power supply, are among the top considerations for building owners and managers. Commercial buildings, while responsible for a considerable amount of energy consumption across the country, have a great deal more progress to make to adopt innovative clean technologies that could drive significant energy savings.

Clean tech solutions will have a major opportunity to innovate a predominately unaffected field and the applications of these advances are only going to become more beneficial for building owners and managers.

A national laboratory and a financial institution have partnered to create the Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator (IN2), a $30 million program that provides a platform to support early-stage clean tech startups by providing access to technical assistance, project support funding and, when appropriate, a real-world demonstration opportunity within the Wells Fargo buildings portfolio. Co-administered by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), IN2 provides portfolio companies with access to world-class facilities and researchers who test, validate and incubate the companies’ technologies to help them meet critical validation milestones on the path to commercialization.

Planning for, and protecting assets from future extreme weather events is something every project developer, designer and planner, as well as every building owner and manager, can do. Consider Energy Storage Systems (ESS) and Go Electric, companies in the IN2 portfolio developing technologies that provide energy storage, energy security and energy efficiency to facilities and the grid. ESS’ all-iron flow battery users can expect more than 20,000 cycles at more than 80 percent depth of discharge during a 25-year life, with minimal maintenance.

Go Electric’s LYNC DR delivers uninterruptible power to facilities, lowers facility energy costs, integrates renewables and other distributed energy resources (DERs) into a resilient microgrid and provides grid-stabilizing energy services to utilities.

A handful of IN2 portfolio companies offer energy storage-driven solutions that allow building owners or managers the ability to disconnect from the grid. If there is a blackout, building owners and managers are able to use their independent systems that store energy on-site instead of relying on the traditional power grid. Due to the falling cost of battery storage and the rising cost of the grid, this option has become increasingly viable in recent years.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, space and water heating, cooling and ventilation end uses account for more than half of the total energy used in U.S. commercial buildings. ThermoLift is a company in the IN2 program developing a natural gas-driven heat pump and air conditioner that will replace heating, cooling and hot water systems with a single device. This appliance provides a 30-50 percent reduction in building HVAC costs, as well as associated reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, the device can be applied to both residential and commercial applications, helping the energy grid balance its demand between use of natural gas and diminishing the use of electricity during peak demand.

In the end, despite the considerable energy consumption of commercial buildings in the United States, clean technologies that focus on energy conservation and sustainability are being developed to better support the energy needs of future generations.

Written by Meghan Bader, program manager for the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.


Topics: Architectural Firms, Automation and Controls, Building Owners and Managers, Construction Firms, Consulting - Green & Sustainable Strategies and Solutions, Energy Saving Products, Energy Storage - Solar Energy Storage, Engineering Firms, Environmental Firms, Great Commercial Buildings, Office Buildings, Sustainable Communities, Technology, Urban Planning and Design


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