Field Notes Spring 2021
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: CEE partnered with Xcel Energy to explore Minnesota utilities’ potential to use non-wires alternatives (also known as geotargeting) as a solution to serve Minnesota customers. Non-wires alternatives refers to the practice of reducing peak electricity demand using resources such as efficiency and demand response to defer infrastructure upgrades necessitated by growth in power consumption.
Update: This project has concluded, and the final report has been released with project insights and policy recommendations, relevant to both Minnesota and national utilities and policy makers. Below are some of the most significant findings the geotargeting project:
Small-scale, demand-side non-wires alternatives are feasible to implement within reasonable budgets and timescales using existing program portfolios.
Minnesota has a modest statewide technical potential estimated at between $1 million and $4 million per year, though this is expected to grow as more end uses electrify.
Distribution planners need more tools to accurately model non-wires resources in their forecasts, and advanced metering infrastructure will improve both planning and evaluation.
Demand-side management is a valuable resource for real-time distribution operations — though better system integration is needed, especially with community solar.
Increased experience with planning and deploying non-wires alternatives will allow Minnesota’s utilities to accurately evaluate the resource when future large distribution projects are needed.
Minnesota has numerous existing policy frameworks that can support the use of cost-effective non-wires technologies.
Learn more on the project page, where you can also view the full report, executive summary, and appendices.
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).
Modeling variable speed heat pumps
Background: Variable speed heat pumps (VSHPs) are able to vary their heating and cooling output to meet a buildings space conditioning demands. The compressor, fans, and valves modulate to efficiently produce the required output. VSHPs represent a significant market opportunity for energy efficiency, particularly for homes in the Pacific Northwest. CEE researchers created a VSHP manufacturer database and an interactive modeling tool to calculate VSHP energy use and performance under a variety of inputs.
Update: The modeling tool CEE created isolates and evaluates the importance of certain variables with regard to variable-speed heat pumps. Key factors include the heat pump capacity; the switchover temperature at which backup systems are engaged; the type of home (e.g., an old, leaky home versus a new, efficient home); and the location of the home (e.g., Portland, Oregon, versus Bozeman, Montana). All of these variables are evaluated with regard to both the heat pump energy use or performance, but also the cost of that energy for both the utility and the customer.
In addition to examining those factors which affect heat pumps, CEE also analyzed the market to identify three to five basic heat pump “archetypes” — groupings of VCHPs based on factors like system capacity and energy performance. These archetypes represent the scope of products currently available in the VSHP market.
Funding for this work was provided by the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance.
New projects through CARD
Background: The Minnesota Department of Commerce has granted a total of $2.4 million in conservation research funding to CEE and its partners for 10 multiyear projects in which CEE will either lead or participate. The Department announced recipients for its 2020 cycle of Conservation Applied Research and Development (CARD) grants, totaling $4.5 million for 22 projects, including the 10 projects affiliated with CEE.
By design, CARD projects quantify the savings, cost-effectiveness, and field performance of advanced technologies; characterize market potential of products and technologies; and investigate and pilot innovative program strategies. Completed projects provide utilities with information to improve relevant program designs or create new programs within their Conservation Improvement Program portfolios.
Update: Below are the 10 projects with which CEE is affiliated. Future editions of this newsletter will offer updates on the progress of these projects.
Energy Savings from Residential Zoned Air Distribution Systems
Overcoming the Market Barriers for RTU Retrofit Enhancements
Air-to-Water Heat Pumps: The cold climate solution for high-efficiency cooling, space heating, and water heating?
Project team: CEE (lead)
This project will assess the energy savings and cost-effectiveness of air-to-water heat pumps for heating, cooling, and domestic hot water. The project will also inform utilities and consumers about system types and configurations, and advise which are best suited for Minnesota homes. 36 months.
Optimizing the New Generation of Grocery Refrigeration Equipment
Project team: CEE (lead) with subcontractor VEIC and others as needed
As the grocery industry moves to the use of carbon dioxide as a refrigerant, its summertime energy use is increasing. This project will evaluate the savings and program potential for design features to increase efficiency of transcritical CO2 systems in Minnesota’s climate. 36 months.
Heat Pump for ACs: Energy Savings and Modernization of Single-Family Cooling Systems Goal
Project team: CEE (lead), with subcontractor Leede Research
This project will use characterization and modeling efforts to examine an emerging market product category of interest to manufacturers — air source heat pumps that are designed and marketed as AC system replacements. 16 months.
How Smart Do Intelligent Buildings Need to Be?
Project team: CEE (lead), with subcontractors LHB, Parallel Technologies, and Igor, Inc.
This market analysis will help optimize intelligent building systems to balance energy savings against these systems’ increased costs, baseloads, and operations and maintenance. Guidelines will define the appropriate level of smart technology implementation for each type of commercial building space use. 24 months.
Advanced Controls for Residential HVAC Fan
Project team: CEE (lead), with subcontractor Slipstream
This field study will measure the savings potential and characterize the market for a commercially available fan controller to increase the efficiency of residential heating and cooling systems. The results will include measures for residential gas and electricity savings for CIP programs. 33 months.
Cold Climate Variable Refrigerant Flow Demonstration and Market Research
Project team: Slipstream (lead), with subcontractor CEE
This project will demonstrate cold-climate variable refrigerant flow systems in buildings. The project will support the development of a program to increase market penetration, identify market barriers and programmatic frameworks, and demonstrate cold-climate performance. 26 months.
The Market for Passive House Multifamily Projects in Minnesota
Project team: University of Minnesota CSBR (lead), with subcontractor CEE
This effort will use data from regional Passive House-certified multifamily projects to understand the potential costs, energy and carbon savings, and market barriers. The team will determine their suitability for a new utility CIP program focused on high-efficiency, whole-building energy performance. 24 months.
HVAC Contractor Decision Research
Project team: EcoMetric Consulting (lead), with subcontractors CEE and Apex Analytics
This project aims to provide in-depth data on the motivations and barriers that drive the decisions of individual HVAC installers working in smaller commercial buildings. The resulting information will ensure that program interventions are meaningful to decision makers and responsive to market conditions. 12 months.