Field Notes Spring 2020

Field Notes Spring 2020


This post complements our Field Notes newsletter, which features quarterly updates on CEE's research projects. Sign up for Field Notes to get this information in your inbox.
 

Geotargeted Distributed Clean Energy Initiative

Background: Non-wires alternatives, like geotargeting, refer to the practice of reducing electricity load in a localized area to defer infrastructure upgrades necessitated by growth in power consumption. CEE is partnering with Xcel Energy to explore MN utilities’ potential to use geotargeting as a solution to serve Minnesota customers. In the most recent project update, the research team shared that they had identified the peak hours of energy use in the targeted areas, as well as a series of energy-saving measures to address that peak — residential and commercial lighting among them.

Update: The project team wrapped up residential implementation having met their goals for number of home energy visits. There were 150 home visits over the course of implementation, a 650% increase over the 20 home visits that took place over the previous three years. During those visits, the team installed 73 smart thermostats and signed residents up for Xcel Energy’s AC Rewards program. The team also began work with businesses in the target area and found that sector needed more lead time to implement changes than the initial six-month project window — implementation will be extended through May 31, 2020, to reflect this. The research team will present on the project at ACEEE’s Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings in August.

Learn more on the project page.

(Funding for this project was provided by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR).)


Commercial and Industrial Refrigeration Market Assessment

Background: Refrigeration represents a significant portion of commercial and industrial loads, and recent research has shown that it also holds substantial potential for electric program savings in the next decade. However, refrigeration has represented a very small amount of large utilities’ savings in recent years. In 2019, CEE undertook a CARD-funded study to assess the markets of commercial and industrial refrigeration to close that gap in realized savings. The study includes a phase of initial market characterization followed by local interviews and site visits, as well as analysis of statewide potential and cost-effectiveness.

Update: Researchers have been working to characterize the refrigeration market, including determining how many refrigeration dominated facilities of different types and sizes exist and identifying additional efficiency measures. Thus far, one of the key findings has been a very low rate of capital equipment upgrades in industrial refrigeration facilities, as they tend to use their major, existing refrigeration system components for a very long time — they need a cost-effective alternative for addressing the efficiency of existing systems. The next phase of the project, which is already partially underway, will interview utility refrigeration program staff in Minnesota and beyond. So far, research into national trends by Cascade Energy, kW Engineering, and CEE has found opportunities to achieve savings in existing facilities and efficient new equipment options that are not yet explicitly addressed by utility programs in Minnesota.

Learn more on the project page 

(This project is supported by a grant from the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources through the Conservation Applied Research and Development (CARD) program, which is funded by Minnesota ratepayers.)


Best Practices and Guide to Potential Residential Cooling Solutions

Background: CEE researchers undertook a CARD-funded study in 2018 to characterize how Minnesota homes are being cooled, identify market barriers to energy efficient cooling, and offer guidance to utilities and decision-makers based on their findings. The result will be a white paper that addresses how Minnesota approaches cooling loads. As an increasing number of Minnesota homes add cooling, this research will address if the classic approach — lowest cost option first — still makes sense for the region.

Update: Researchers have explored new equipment innovations on the cooling market, interviewed stakeholders to understand how decisions are being made today, and performed engineering calculations to look at the actual loads across Minnesota as well as how new equipment could impact them. The following are a few takeaways from the research so far:

  • Cooling decisions are largely made based on comfort and lower first costs. Little thought is put to efficiency or nontraditional options.
  • Recent years have seen an increase in options for addressing cooling loads through combined loads (e.g., heat pumps to do cooling as well as colder season heating, cooling systems that are also sized to handle dehumidification).
  • Behavior has a big impact on the actual operation of cooling systems — a greater fractional impact than it has on heating loads.

Researchers are in the process of taking those lessons and others, as well as calculations and modelling, and building a savings calculation and system selection tool. They are also writing the final report, with an anticipated release in the summer of 2020.

Learn more on the project page.

(This project is supported by a grant from the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources through the Conservation Applied Research and Development (CARD) program, which is funded by Minnesota ratepayers.)


Minnesota Solar Pathways: Solar Development Strategies

Background: In 2018, CEE researchers contributed to the Solar Potential Analysis (SPA) as part of the Minnesota Solar Pathways project, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office. The Pathways project seeks to maximize the benefits of solar electricity at the state level through strategic planning, and the SPA’s findings indicated that energy storage and load shifting could expand dispatch capabilities and increase cost-effectiveness. Since the publication of the SPA final report, researchers have moved into the next phase of the Minnesota Solar Pathways initiative — called Solar Deployment Strategies (SDS) — which explores how solar deployment throughout the state can affect electric customers and what different stakeholders can do to understand those effects.

Update: To explore the potential effects of solar deployment, SDS researchers are constructing a modeling tool with variable inputs for customer types, types of solar deployment, and info about electric rates. The tool is largely finished, and will eventually be available to the public. CEE’s role is to develop models of building energy profiles that reflect the diversity of residential and commercial electricity customers (e.g., multifamily or single-family housing, gas or electric heating, large or small commercial businesses). The second part of CEE’s work focuses on distributing those building profiles proportionately throughout the state by zip code. The modeling tool will be useful to help cities and utilities understand how solar deployment will affect all segments of their customer base.

Learn more on the project page

(Led by the Minnesota Department of Commerce, this project is supported in part by a grant through the U.S. Department of Energy's SunShot Initiative)

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