Taking energy innovation from theory to reality

To witness emerging energy technologies being road tested, head down Louis Rose Place to tour Environmental Way. Better yet, have David Bowles show you how he tracks that data in real time on a very sophisticated dashboard. BOWLES CHOSE LONG-VACANT BUILDING TO DEMONSTRATE SAVINGS The Environmental Way building had been vacant for a decade before Bowles bought it to consolidate his companies. He knew the former IBM location had good bones, so he had an insatiable drive to prove you don’t have to start from scratch to be sustainable. Inside his own learning laboratory, Bowles is now able to show clients of his mechanical and electrical firms how going green won’t break the bank. Bowles’ redevelopment team combined the 26-year-old structure’s existing equipment with new and more efficient chillers and boilers, tapped into wind and solar power and relied heavily on reclaimed and recycled materials. MAKING ICE TO KEEP BUILDING COOL A thermal storage system, for example, makes ice in off-peak hours and stores it to circulate and cool the building during peak hours. Savings are enhanced by an on-grid rooftop photovoltaic system capable of producing excess electrical power that Bowles can sell back to Duke Energy. A number of companies are partnering to produce case studies including Carrier’s i-Vu Energy Management System and a 120-ton Air-Cooled Scroll Chiller as well as Kohler’s Wave Technology toilets and fixtures that produce savings of up to 25% or more per year compared to standard fixtures. Bowles estimates his electric bill dropped about 72 percent after switching to TOU meter strategies to an average of $1,100 a month as he completed the...

EPRI researchers find answers to energy questions

Long before Charlotte’s marketing gurus hit upon the idea of an energy hub, experts from around the world were coming to Electric Power Research Institute’s facility in University Research Park for help with their most challenging energy issues. EPRI Charlotte’s global role continues to grow – and so have its staff and campus. EPRI got much needed expansion room last fall when it bought the former Verbatim building and 24 acres next door. EPRI SERVES A GLOBAL AUDIENCE Research into improving our power grid and preventing power-plant failures have made EPRI Charlotte a key player in the global energy field. The Charlotte facility opened in the early 1980s and is one of four EPRI research centers nationwide. EPRI serves most major US utilities and has clients in 40 other countries. The low-key entrance on Harris Boulevard – and the meaningless EPRI acronym – gives no hint of the high-level work taking place at EPRI Charlotte. The staff of about 200 engineers and scientists provides research and develops new products to improve power transmission and both nuclear- and traditional fossil-fuel- power generation. RESEARCHERS HERE FOCUS ON GRID AND POWER PLANTS One current project explores ways to increase the capacity of America’s power grid. Another is developing robots to crawl along high-voltage power lines and inspect them for problems. Much of EPRI Charlotte’s research seeks to help utilities keep their power plants – especially nuclear power plants – running safely. How do you find potential weak spots in materials subjected to intense heat and pressure? “EPRI spearheaded the miniaturization of ultrasound technology to improve the ability of nuclear plants to evaluate...

IKEA turning vast rooftop into solar farm

What can you do with a 2.9-acre rooftop? Turn it into a solar-energy farm, says IKEA. By next summer, the rooftop of University City’s giant home-furnishings store will have more than 4,200 solar panels capturing enough energy to power 114 homes. IKEA plans to make similar installations at its other nine Southern U.S. stores, the company says. IKEA will own and operate each of the energy systems and use the power within its buildings. IKEA says that this investment “reinforces the company’s long-term commitment to sustainability and confidence in photovoltaic technology.” IKEA already has 12 solar-energy systems in place across the U.S., with 11 more under way. By next summer, three-fourths of all U.S. IKEA stores will have solar-energy systems. “IKEA believes we can be a good business while doing good business,” said Mike Ward, IKEA U.S. president. “This investment extends our solar presence to the Southern U.S., further reducing our carbon footprint and the intensity of the electrical grid.” IKEA has taken several other steps to protect the environment and reduce energy consumption. These include eliminating plastic bags from the checkout process, phasing out the sale of incandescent light bulbs and facilitating recycling of customers’ compact fluorescent bulbs. Also, IKEA is installing electric vehicle charging stations at nine stores in the Western U.S. IKEA also encourages its customers to become stewards of the environment through its “Plant A Tree” program, a partnership with American Forests. IKEA asks customers to donate $1 to plant a tree. Since 1998, IKEA customers have funded the planting of nearly 2 million trees. Learn...