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Back to EurekAlert! A Service of the American Association for the Advancement of Science

 

NETL's green projects promise energy efficiency all year round



Construction has started on the Morgantown site’s new daycare center, which will feature many green innovations.

Forty years after the first Earth Day, it is almost second nature to toss a can or plastic bottle into the recycling bin, but being green is about much more than reusing materials. Just as individuals make a personal decision to "reduce, reuse, and recycle," businesses, industry, and other organizations are making the same commitment to being green. With our increased awareness and commitment to a more sustainable environment, we can celebrate this Earth Day—April 22—knowing that great strides are being made toward cleaner energy technology.

The National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) is taking the lead in this green revolution by developing cutting-edge, clean energy technologies. As "the ENERGY lab," many of NETL's research projects work toward providing or conserving energy while protecting the environment. But the laboratory's commitment doesn't stop there. NETL also employs green technologies on our own research campuses.

Among NETL's green buildings are two on the Morgantown, W.Va., campus. Dedicated in August of 2008, the Technology Support Facility (TSF) has been awarded the U.S. Green Building Council's gold rating in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification and is registered with the LEED Certification program under the "Green Building Green Rating System," endorsed by DOE. The facility is also expected to meet the criteria for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star Certification, which recognizes top-performing buildings in energy conservation.

Excavation for the TSF was conducted without any soil being removed from the site, and construction waste was recycled or reused. These green practices resulted in reduced cost and greenhouse gas emissions because trucks were not needed to haul away as much debris. Recycled and sustainable materials were also used in much of the building, including the foundation, walls, carpet, ceiling tiles, and structural steel. Even the lighting was designed with conservation in mind. The windows allow for ample natural light, which is supplemented as needed by interior lighting, monitored by lighting and motion sensors. T5 fluorescent and compact fluorescent lighting are used throughout the building to improve energy efficiency. It is estimated that these steps reduce typical power usage by half, resulting in annual power savings of 50 kilowatts each for lighting and ventilation.



The central skylight and windows in the TSF provide adequate ambient light to reduce the lighting needs for the building.

The roof of the facility assists in both temperature control and water conservation. One section is a living roof, covered with vegetation that absorbs and holds energy from sunlight. It releases the heat when the air cools, helping to reduce the heating and cooling demands of the building. The other section holds large reservoirs to collect rainwater for use in septic and gardening systems. To further preserve water, the landscape surrounding the TSF features indigenous plants, which reduce irrigation requirements, and the building is equipped with the latest green plumbing technologies.

The other green building at NETL Morgantown is a new daycare center to be completed by November 2010, which will also feature many innovations. The building copies the layout of the Pittsburgh daycare facility, but was designed to a LEED Platinum Rating with many energy-efficient features. The main source of heating and cooling for the center will come from geothermal heat pumps—a series of wells that use water to exchange heat with the consistent temperature of the ground. The water will travel from the well into heat pumps where the thermal transfer will occur for heating or cooling. The system will heat at a fraction of the energy required by conventional systems.

This system will also transfer heat via a radiant floor heating system during the cold months. The heat pumps of the geothermal system will warm water that is circulated through tubes in the floor slab of the day care facility. With several inches of rigid insulation beneath the slab, the floor system will be kept in the range of 75 to 80 °F. This warmed slab will radiate heat into the space above, producing the most uniform warmth achievable.



The wind turbine at the Pittsburgh site was installed beside the green roof, seen in the foreground. Both add to the energy efficiency of the building.

To conserve additional energy, an electrical grid supplemented through photovoltaic panels will be used to harvest solar power on the roof of the building. Even in the relatively cloudy region of Morgantown, this array should create a 15 percent reduction in electricity demand for the building. Another innovative feature of the facility will be the use of solar light tubes. A series of roof domes will capture daylight and convey it through reflective tubes into the classroom below. The natural light harvested through the light tubes will reduce the amount of artificial lighting required in the classrooms. Each room will be equipped with light sensors to adjust the output of the electrical lighting based on the ambient light levels.

A rainwater harvesting system will reduce water use at the daycare by capturing rainwater for non-drinking uses. By using rain water for toilets and other fixtures, the daycare center will use less than half the amount of city water of a similar standard building.

Among the many energy-saving features and other green projects on the Pittsburgh, Pa., campus are three new renewable energy projects recently installed by NETL and Constellation Energy. These projects help reduce carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and sulfur oxide emissions, lower energy costs, and make NETL more energy efficient. The first is a vertical-axis wind turbine installed on the concrete roof of a laboratory building to generate power for that building. This type of wind turbine is designed for urban rooftop installation and will withstand the turbulent nature of the wind conditions associated with NETL's Research Plateau, where wind is channeled through the building complex in various directions and speeds. Safety features and a special sensor/communication interface board will extend the life of this turbine and lower maintenance costs. While operating at varying speeds, the turbine will deliver optimum power within safety limits, so even in high or gusty wind conditions, the turbine will not exceed 160 revolutions per minute.

In the visitors' parking lot and nearby stairwell, five 12-foot solar overhead lights have been mounted. The installed solar lights will illuminate the walking paths to and from the research area where no lighting previously existed, without requiring additional electrical energy fromthe local electrical supplier. Not only will this addition help make the walkways safer, but electricity costs will not be affected.

Two Pittsburgh buildings are being outfitted with green roofs similar to the one on Morgantown's TSF. The concrete roofs already covering these two buildings are ideal for supporting the added weight, and the rubber coating over the concrete will last much longer protected by the vegetation. The green roof will be more effective than the stones that previously covered the roof in reducing rooftop heat loads, reducing the amount of energy needed to heat and cool the building, and providing storm water runoff control. A common problem for flat roofs is water pooling during a storm. Most of the water will now be collected by the green roof, providing water for the vegetation. Already, Pittsburgh's new green roof has a variety of plants providing low-growing ground cover, capable of surviving the extreme weather conditions impacting roofs in this region.

Several other energy-saving projects are in the works for NETL, including biogas boiler installation and vending machine controls in Pittsburgh, fume hood controls and a natural gas utilization upgrade in Morgantown, and a potable water savings project in Pittsburgh and Albany, Ore.

Join NETL in our commitment to make the Earth a better place to live, and celebrate every day as Earth Day!

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