Buildings As A Resource - Trane Call for Innovation

Seeking Novel Applications of Thermal Storage for Better Building Design & Performance


The building industry strives to produce cost-effective and eco-friendly technologies that improve the performance of buildings, while also considering occupant comfort. It is crucial that innovative techniques and materials be developed that efficiently condition occupied spaces, contribute to improved occupant comfort, and have low product and installation costs. Such energy, comfort and cost considerations will best enable contractors and builders to provide customers with high-performing, sustainable buildings.

Thermal storage has multiple benefits which include: 1) 10X lifetime when compared to traditional batteries, 2) Adding a “partial ice” system to a building can be done at a lower installed cost than a traditional air-cooled chiller system, and 3) Many current thermal storage tanks are 99% recyclable and do not involve remediation of hazardous materials at the end of their lifecycle. Even though energy storage costs are trending down and thermal storage systems in general are approximately 1/4 the cost of electric battery systems, thermal storage has not gained global adoption at the scale which would support the greatest benefit to the power grid and cost advantages to consumers. Most current iterations of thermal storage systems involve large modular insulated tanks which connect to the building chiller systems to produce chilled water or ice inside the tanks.

To meet peak power demand, many utilities apply additional “demand” charges for commercial building customers to recover the associated capital costs. Energy storage can reduce these demand charges by storing energy during off-peak periods and then discharging to reduce the magnitude of peak building demand. Because a significant portion of commercial building peak demand is driven by air conditioning, thermal storage can be used in lieu of battery storage to reduce demand charges. In thermal storage, equipment is used to make chilled water at times when electricity demand is low; later this equipment can cool the building with the chilled water or ice during peak demand hours without any loss of climate control or occupant comfort. Although very efficient, thermal storage usually requires a significant footprint (see Figures 1 & 2 below) hence limiting technology adoption.

The Challenge

The challenge is to develop a new way to heat and cool commercial buildings using thermal storage. Specifically, can we conceptualize ways in which thermal storage can more elegantly complement the design of a structure or facility, thereby promoting greater implementation of the technology. Innovators are encouraged to explore ideas of incorporating the elements of chilled water or ice into a structure that is simple, elegant, and complements other building components and purposes to assist in making the overall building system more efficient and less dependent on the electric grid. Examples of innovative ideas could include storing chilled water or ice within various building components, exploring new ways to use chilled water or ice as a thermal battery for the building, and new ideas around using stored water to provide energy to a system of smaller structures. The solution should comply with the following design criteria:

  • Focus on new construction or deep retrofit for commercial applications;
  • Cost effective materials and designs meeting a simple payback calculation of under 5 years; and
  • System design provides maximum value to both the grid and the system owner by minimizing billed kWh/kW, thereby saving the owner money on monthly electric bills, while enabling the provision of demand response and other grid services.

This JUMP Call for Innovation requires only a written proposal, but inclusion of additional illustrations is encouraged. Review and consideration of ideas does not require submitters to provide ideas with documented Intellectual Property (IP).

The Award

Cash award of $5,000 will be sponsored by Trane for the top selected technology submission. The idea submitter will also be invited to discuss future collaboration with Trane and ORNL technical experts. Depending on the needs identified ORNL may provide in-kind technical support of up to $20,000 to enable ORNL staff to provide prototype development, testing, 3rd party validation, or other defined support.

Additionally, Successful JUMP participants looking for funding and incubation support may be invited to participate in the Clean Tech Open Accelerator Program based on technical and market merit.

Idea Submission Deadline
Idea Submission Period Ends: Sunday September 10th, 2017 at 11:59 PM EST

Figure 1. A Thermal Storage Tank at the VA Medical Center in Dallas, TX.

Figure 2. Ice Thermal Storage tanks at the University of Arizona

Call: Buildings As A Resource - Trane Call for Innovation

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Submitted by (@mikebarker)


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Call: Buildings As A Resource - Trane Call for Innovation

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Submitted by (@mikewofsey)


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