When CALMAC CEO Mark MacCracken looks at a building, he sees thermal mass and air conditioning load, and above all an opportunity to vastly increase the efficiency of our national power grid. He sees the world of electricity production and consumption from an integrated, systems-thinking approach, and the potential for huge improvements. Which is a blessing and a curse, because alongside the enormous potential, he also observes an impressively high level of old-school, status quo thinking that keeps us mired in uneconomical ways of running our power grid and cooling our buildings.
Heres the problem, and the opportunity: In the United States, according to the DOE, roughly 35 per cent of our electricity is consumed in the commercial building sector. Of that 35 per cent, about 15 per cent is dedicated to HVAC (air conditioning load). So 15 per cent of 35 per cent is not a big deal, right? After all, its only 5.25 per cent of total electricity consumption. Wrong, and heres why.
That 5.25 per cent is the average over the year. And we dont use our AC at all in the winter, and very little in the spring or fall. We use it when we need it. Its that air conditioning load that contributes the lions share of additional peak demand on those hottest of summer days, straining our grid and driving us perilously close to the edge on the worst days. And on those hottest days, it represents far more than 5 per cent of consumption. In a place like California, residential and commercial air conditioning can represent over 30 per cent of summertime electric loads.
Its the demand on the margin. And its that cooling load that causes our country to have to invest in an oversized infrastructure that we dont even need or use most of the time. It would be as if McDonalds had to design their kitchen and size their grills for the few days a year that a school bus full of kids drives up, while the rest of the time, that extra grilling capacity would lie idle.
This is an issue that MacCracken has looked at for over three decades, and he has developed a cost-effective solution to address it: ice storage.
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12 December 2017