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Research Highlights

Berkeley Lab Researcher Wins ITRI-Rosenfeld Fellowship

The ITRI-Rosenfeld Fellowship selection committee recently announced the fellowship's 2013 winner: Joshua Apte, a Research Associate in the Electronics Lighting and Network Group of the Environmental Energy Technologies Division.

Left to right: Paul Alivisatos (Berkeley Lab Director), Art Rosenfeld, (EETD Scientist Emeritus), Joshua Apte (winner of the Fellowship), Ashok Gadgil (EETD Director), and Dr Hsin-Shen Chu, (former Executive Vice President, ITRI), Taiwan.

Left to right: Paul Alivisatos (Berkeley Lab Director), Art Rosenfeld, (EETD Scientist Emeritus), Joshua Apte (winner of the Fellowship), Ashok Gadgil (EETD Director), and Dr Hsin-Shen Chu, (former Executive Vice President, ITRI), Taiwan.

Apte is also a PhD candidate in the Energy and Resources Group at the University of California, Berkeley. He conducts research on the environmental and health impacts of energy, transportation, and other urban infrastructure systems. His dissertation employs mathematical models and field measurements to characterize human exposure to motor vehicle air pollution, emphasizing conditions in developing countries.

The ITRI-Rosenfeld Fellowship allows its winner to engage in innovative research leading to new energy-efficiency technologies or policies and reduction of adverse energy-related environmental impacts.

The fellowship committee received 17 outstanding applications. Through a rigorous selection process, the Scientific Selection Committee scrutinized the applications over several months and narrowed the field to three finalists. Those applicants presented their work to the committee and were interviewed by the committee to determine a winner.

The award was announced in a ceremony attended by a group that included Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's (Berkeley Lab's) Scientist Emeritus Art Rosenfeld, Lab Director Paul Alivisatos, Deputy Director Horst Simon, Environmental Energy Technologies Division Director Ashok Gadgil, and Deputy Division Director Robert Kostecki. The delegation from the Industrial Technology Research Institute of Taiwan (ITRI) included Dr. Hsin-Shen Chu (Former Executive Vice President, ITRI), Dr. Wu-Chi Ho (Deputy General Director of Green Energy Labs, GEL), Dr. Chia-Ming Liu (Manager of Planning Division, GEL), Dr. Shoung Ouyang (Technical Director of Resource Division of GEL), Dr. Ren-Chain (Joseph) Wang (Deputy Director of Planning Division, ITRI), and Dr. Shao-Hwa (Sean) Wang (President, ITRI International).

The fellowship is provided with support from the Industrial Technology Research Institute of Taiwan. It honors the contributions of Arthur H. Rosenfeld, Ph.D., fondly known as the Father of Energy Efficiency for his work toward the advancement of energy efficiency on a global scale. In the 1970s, Dr. Rosenfeld pioneered energy-efficiency technology research at what would become the Berkeley Lab's Environmental Energy Technologies Division.

 
 
 
 

Links:

ITRI-Rosenfeld Fellowship website

Joshua Apte's website

About Art Rosenfeld


Wind Power Still a Cost-effective Long-term Hedge Against Natural Gas Prices

Expanding production of U.S. shale gas reserves has helped to reduce natural gas prices across the nation, prompting many power producers to switch from coal to natural gas. Though arguably a near-term positive for both consumers and the environment, this "dash for gas," and its corresponding suppression of wholesale power prices, has made it harder for wind and other renewable power technologies to compete on price alone (despite recent cost and performance improvements). As wind power finds it more difficult to compete with gas-fired generation on a price basis, it may need to rely on other attributes, such as its "portfolio" or "hedge" value, as justification for continued deployment in the power mix.

Portrait of Mark Bolinger

Mark Bolinger

Mark Bolinger

Against this backdrop, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's (Berkeley Lab's) Mark Bolinger released a report that investigates the degree to which wind power can still serve as a cost-effective hedge against rising natural gas prices. Berkeley Lab hosted a webinar in March to present the research.

The report, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, draws on a sizable sample of long-term power purchase agreements (PPAs) between existing wind projects and U.S. utilities. It compares wind power prices that have been contractually locked in for decades with a range of long-term natural gas price projections. The report finds that—even within today's low gas price environment—wind power can still provide a cost-effective long-term hedge against many of the higher-priced future natural gas scenarios being contemplated. This finding is particularly evident among more-recent contracts, whose power sales prices better reflect recent improvements in the cost and performance of wind power.

With shale gas likely to keep a lid on domestic natural gas prices in the near-term, the report focus is decidedly long-term. "Short-term gas price risk can already be effectively hedged using conventional hedging instruments like futures, options, and bilateral physical supply contracts, but these instruments come up short when one tries to lock in prices over longer durations," notes Bolinger, of Berkeley Lab's Environmental Energy Technologies Division. "It is over these longer durations where inherently stable-priced generation sources like wind power hold a rather unique competitive advantage."

A copy of the report, Revisiting the Long-Term Hedge Value of Wind Power in an Era of Low Natural Gas Prices, along with a slide deck summary, can be downloaded here.


Super-efficient Air Conditioners Show Potential for Significant Savings

A new assessment of the potential benefits from deploying super-efficient air conditioners has found significant untapped potential for air conditioner efficiency. The study estimates that, in the countries studied, more than 120 Rosenfelds (i.e., 120 medium-sized [500 megawatt] power plants) could be saved by 2020. The International Energy Studies group at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and Navigant Consulting, Inc., conducted the study.

 
 
 
 

This landmark finding may have a significant impact on energy-efficiency strategy for countries such as India and China as they attempt to cope with high energy demand and the capacity required to address peak loads. The study found that air conditioning efficiency can be cost-effectively improved by 20 to 40 percent in most major economies.

"The main significance of this study is that the estimated future electricity footprint of air conditioners is on par with or surpasses the electricity to be generated from renewable sources such as wind and solar," says Berkeley Lab scientist Nihar Shah, the report's lead author. "This implies that policies to promote more efficient air conditioning equipment should be pursued with a similar seriousness and concern."

In India, China, and Brazil alone, electricity demand to power room air conditioners is expected to equal the output of five Three Gorges Dams by 2020—more than 500 terawatt-hours (TWh/yr)! Adoption of cost-effective efficiency levels would save more than 140 TWh per year by 2020.

"The information collected in the study can be used by governments and utilities to design a variety of air conditioner efficiency improvement policies and programs," said Amol Phadke, a coauthor of the study and Deputy Leader of the International Energy Studies Group at Berkeley Lab.

The study is the basis for a new strategy in development by the Super-efficient Equipment and Appliance Deployment (SEAD) initiative of the Clean Energy Ministerial to address the rapidly growing electricity demand from air conditioners. It was funded by the U.S. Department of State and administered by the U.S. Department of Energy in support of the SEAD initiative.

The countries analyzed in the study were: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the European Commission, France, Germany, India, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, Sweden, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

About SEAD

Through the collaborative efforts of its 16 participating governments, the Super-Efficient Equipment and Appliance Deployment initiative under the Clean Energy Ministerial aims to accelerate global progress on the energy efficiency of equipment and appliances. Governments participating in SEAD include Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, India, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, Sweden, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, and the European Commission.

Links

Download the report, Cooling the Planet: Opportunities for Deployment of Superefficient Room Air Conditioners.

Super-efficient Equipment and Appliance Deployment (SEAD) Initiative


Low Natural Gas Prices Effect Energy-Efficiency Program Selection

A new policy brief by Ian Hoffman, Merrian Borgeson, and Mark Zimring of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's Environmental Energy Technologies Division describes the challenges that low gas prices pose for the cost effectiveness of energy-efficiency programs. Using an electric-gas efficiency program and portfolio as an example, it quantifies options available to regulators and program administrators who want to evaluate the trade-offs among multiple policy choices and objectives. It also illustrates the implications of applying a range of cost-effectiveness screening options, including different discount rates, levels of test application, various benefit-cost tests, and the inclusion of non-energy resource benefits.

The analysis suggests that both low natural gas prices and the cost-effectiveness screening policies that are prevalent in many states are likely to challenge the viability of residential efficiency upgrade programs that are natural gas saving-only offerings and some programs that target both electricity and natural gas savings opportunities. This finding suggests that regulators and administrators of gas-only and electric-gas programs will have difficult choices ahead if several types of gas energy-efficiency programs are to remain part of their energy savings and public policy strategies. However, the brief offers regulators and administrators a range of options to consider in their choices of screening practices.

Download the policy brief, Implications of Cost-Effectiveness Screening Practices in a Low Natural Gas Price Environment: Case Study of a Midwestern Residential Energy Upgrade Program, at the link below.

Links

Download the policy brief

Other publications of the Electricity Markets and Policy Group


 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 

New Online Forum to Help Homeowners Reduce Energy Use

Scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), in partnership with the staff of Home Energy magazine, have launched the Home Energy Saver Community, an online forum that homeowners and remodelers can use as a resource to improve household energy use.

Screenshot of the Home Energy Saver Community website

Home Energy Saver Community website

Home Energy Saver Community website

This online forum is part of the Berkeley Lab's popular Home Energy Saver interactive home energy assessment tool. According to Berkeley Lab's Evan Mills, "the Home Energy Saver Community harnesses the popularity of social media, both to motivate homeowners to engage more in the process of remodeling their homes, and to help them make those homes more comfortable and energy efficient."

The Home Energy Saver Community, which launched in March, features rich content from Home Energy magazine's forthcoming guidebook, No-Regrets Remodeling, 2nd Edition. It also features case studies, energy-expert blogs, videos, a Google calendar with energy-saving actions that users can import into their calendars, and more. The book highlights areas where readers can use the do-it-yourself Home Energy Saver online energy assessment tool to obtain a list of energy-saving upgrades tailored to their home, climate, and local energy prices. Hard copy and electronic versions of the book will be published later this spring.

For more information:

  • Evan Mills
  • (510) 486-6784

Links

Home Energy Magazine on the Home Energy Saver Community

Home Energy Saver Community


Berkeley Lab Helps NASA Ames Sustainability Base Optimize Its Energy Use

As reported in the Fall 2011 EETD News, the Buildings Technology Department at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has been contributing to the energy management of the NASA Ames Sustainability Base—possibly the best-performing building in the federal fleet. Berkeley Lab is helping NASA ensure that the building meets its energy-efficiency design goals by implementing a real-time building energy simulation tool and installing additional instrumentation to measure its energy performance and the weather data.

 
 
 
 
 

The real-time building simulation tool incorporated EnergyPlus, the U.S. Department of Energy's energy-performance simulation model, into the mix, to help NASA optimize the building's energy operations. EnergyPlus is used to estimate energy use based on design intent, and Fault Detection and Diagnosis (FDD) algorithms developed by NASA compare that against real-time energy use data to identify and address equipment and systems that use more energy than intended.

Data sensors and meters will soon be installed, and the data gathering will begin. Based on the experience and the data collected, Berkeley Lab will publish an implementation guide this summer that discusses the lessons learned and guides similar efforts in the future.

"We're really enjoying our partnership with NASA," says Xiufeng Pang, of the Building Technologies Department. "They have some great technologies to improve building performance, and we hope to be able to continue this collaboration into the future."

For more information about Sustainability Base, visit the NASA Sustainability Base website.

For more information about LBNL's Building Science program, visit the Environmental Energy Technologies Division website.

For more information:

  • Xiufeng Pang
  • (510) 495-2130

NEC Laboratories Supports Berkeley Lab Microgrid Research

NEC Laboratories America, Inc., has provided Michael Stadler, of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's Grid Integration Group, a gift of $60,000 to support his research in microgrids and energy storage.

Previous gifts from NEC also have supported Stadler's research; one study resulted in the report, Electric Storage in California's Commercial Buildings (LBNL-6071E). That project examined whether buildings could serve as the hub for electric vehicles and serve as a resource in a building energy management system (EMS) for demand response or strategies that reduce carbon dioxide emissions. It was also funded by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability.

Download the report, Electric Storage in California's Commercial Buildings.


Berkeley Lab Researchers Evaluate Tin Nanocrystals for Li-ion Battery Electrodes

The energy density in lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries enables them to store and provide considerable energy in a small package. Powering devices from pacemakers to smart phones, these small, lightweight, rechargeable batteries have become a ubiquitous part of modern electronics. Using materials such as tin and silicon give Li-ion even a higher energy density—enough for a battery to power an electric vehicle—but the electrochemical reactions with those metals produce extremely high volume changes, which lead to mechanical stress and failure.

High-resolution transmission electron microscopy images and micrographs illustrate the morphological cracking observed in tin nanocrystals after lithiation.

High-resolution transmission electron microscopy images and micrographs illustrate the morphological cracking observed in tin nanocrystals after lithiation.

Many battery researchers have suggested that by using nanocrystals, this mechanical damage may be avoided, so researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's (Berkeley Lab's) Environmental Energy Technologies Division (EETD) and Molecular Foundry tested that theory with tin nanocrystals. They studied mechanical cracking on homogenous 10 nanometer (nm) tin crystals from electrochemical cycling with lithium.

 
 

The nanomaterial exhibited better cyclability than commercially available particles; however, an ex situ transmission electron microscopy (TEM) examination of the sample showed significant damage after the first lithiation, proving that a size reduction at a 10 nm scale does not prevent the material from cracking.

These results could refocus the research in this area. Because this work suggests that particle damage may be inevitable when using tin nanocrystals for Li-ion battery electrodes, future research may be better directed toward the creation of self-healing structures or strategies to make the surface of the particles unreactive with the electrolyte. The researchers noted, however, that this work may not apply to silicon, which has already been shown to resist cracking during expansion.

This project was conducted by EETD researchers Linping Xu, Chunjoong Kim, Alpesh K. Shukla, and Jordi Cabana and Molecular Foundry researchers Angang Dong, Tracy M. Mattox, and Delia J. Milliron.

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