Advantages of Thermal Energy Storage Systems

Posted on January 2nd, 2011 by
   

In the early days of air-conditioning, electricity was plentiful and cheap, which enabled the building industry to provide almost all commercial buildings with comfort cooling.  As a result, comfort cooling is standard in almost all of today’s commercial buildings. As the global economy continues to grow, demand for energy and electricity will increase with it, and air conditioning for buildings is a major contributor to that growth.

Increasing global economic growth, a lack of grid infrastructure investment, nuclear energy falling out of favor, and issues with generation location all contribute to increased demand and electricity costs in this country.  Global warming is also having a major impact and it is changing the way legislators and the energy industry view replacement generation, transmission, and pricing.  Minimizing CO2 emissions that cause global warming is a focus of political leaders and one of the reasons for replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy.

As a result of this focus, along with federal, state, and local subsidies, wind and solar energy are becoming larger portions of the generation mix.  Eventually, as with all long term sustainable business, the renewable energy industry must stand on its own.  Subsidies are needed because renewable energy is more expensive than fossil fuel generation and renewable energy lacks a fundamental feature of fossil fuels – storage.  Renewable energy is missing storage.  Fossil fuels are forms of stored energy. Renewable energy production is intermittent.  Renewable energy output is dependent upon weather, location, or both.  Fossil fuel generation can be turned on or off, as demand requires.  Shifting to renewable energy forms or generation will require management of supply and demand at the utility level and at the customer level to make the grid reliable and economically viable in the long term.

So how will cooling system designs change?  Just like automobiles have hybrid cars, cooling designs have hybrid designs that incorporate energy storage. Hybrid cooling systems with thermal energy storage systems use standard air conditioning chillers at night to create and store energy in the form of chilled water or ice for use the next day during peak periods of demand or high cost.

Hybrid cooling systems with thermal energy storage offer many advantages.

Helps the Environment

Current traditional nighttime electricity is, generally, more efficiently generated and transported than peak demand electricity.  More efficient generation means that less source fuel is used to create electricity which reduces consumption of those resources and CO2 emissions. Additionally, nighttime electricity is increasingly made up of renewable wind energy, which has zero emissions.

Creates Demand for Renewable Energy Investment

Using storage will create more demand for wind and solar energy while increasing their output, which will help lower costs and the dependence on fossil fuels.

Helps Grid Stability

Thermal energy storage and other forms of storage will help enable the grid to overcome the intermittent output of renewable energy, keeping the grid stable and reliable.

Helps Smart Grid Become Viable

Storage will allow a smart grid to manage supply and demand in a more efficient manner, storing renewable energy when it can be created and using storage when renewable energy is not available.

More Intelligent Energy Efficiency

Rightsizing thermal energy storage tanks, chillers and other ancillary HVAC equipment results in lower connected electric loads and more efficient operation.  Smaller chillers, pumps, and cooling towers operate more efficiently when they’re not oversized. Stored energy is discharged when a boost in cooling is needed.

Lower Cooling Costs

Thermal energy storage allows consumers decide when electricity will be purchased.  Purchasing power during non-peak times can reduce cooling costs anywhere from 20-40 percent.

Thermal energy storage systems can affordably lower the impact of cooling on the environment while lowering cooling costs. These systems help make renewable energy and the smart grid more viable.

Written by Paul Valenta, CALMAC Manufacturing Corp.

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of  the author, Paul Valenta is the North American Sales Manager for CALMAC Manufacturing Corp and is responsible for Marketing and Sales of Ice Storage in North America, Central America, and The Caribbean.  Paul has an Electrical Engineering degree from the University of Nebraska and has been in the HVAC industry for 24 years, the last 19 with CALMAC.  Paul is a member of ASHRAE, AEE and is a LEED Accredited Professional.

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