SMUD recognized for innovation at gathering of state utility regulators

WAPA congratulates customer Sacramento Municipal Utility District You are leaving WAPA.gov. (SMUD) on receiving an innovation award at the annual meeting of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners You are leaving WAPA.gov. (NARUC) in November.

The award for Municipal-level Innovation in Regulatory Policy recognized SMUD’s work testing a new cooling technology that significantly reduces summer peak loads. SMUD’s project was one of 10 innovation awards NARUC presented at the meeting in Baltimore, Maryland.

Widely recognized need
For summer-peaking utilities, the air conditioning load is the 600-lb. gorilla. According to a 2006 California Energy Commission report, on the hottest summer days, air conditioning alone accounts for more than 30 percent of the peak demand on the statewide electric network. Conventional rooftop-packaged cooling units—80 percent of building systems—exacerbate the heavy demand that summer air conditioning puts on the grid.

In a hot, dry climate (like much of WAPA’s territory), indirect evaporative cooling (IDEC) technology has shown strong potential for reducing peak demand. It works on the same principle as direct evaporative cooling lowering air temperature by causing water to evaporate. The main difference with an indirect system is that a heat exchanger is used to cool the air supplied to the living space. The fact that the technology also uses less water than the direct method makes it even more attractive in the drought-wracked West.

IDEC cooling was an excellent candidate for SMUD’s Customer Advanced Technologies (CAT) Program, You are leaving WAPA.gov. designed to help customers use and evaluate new or underutilized technologies. The CAT program pays some of the costs for installing the demonstration equipment.

Tale of two businesses
SMUD enlisted two large customers, both with cooling issues, to participate in a demonstration spanning the summers of 2014 to 2015. Tri-Tool, a custom tool manufacturer, replaced its conventional cooling system in the shop with a Climate Wizard You are leaving WAPA.gov. IDEC system. Environment Synectics, which provides environmental services for the government, installed a hybrid system combining Climate Wizard units with conventional systems.

TriTool employees get a look at the new indirect evaporative cooling system SMUD tested on their facility. The Climate Wizard also improved air quality on the shop floor.

TriTool employees get a look at the new indirect evaporative cooling system SMUD tested on their facility. The Climate Wizard also improved air quality on the shop floor. (Photo by Sacramento Municipal Utility District)

The CAT program paid for the incremental cost of the Climate Wizard over standard air conditioning technology. The units are manufactured in Australia, so between shipping costs and smaller-scale production, the initial cost of the equipment can be a barrier to adoption. But SMUD Program Manager Jim Parks observed, “If your region has enough hot days, you will get your money’s worth.”

SMUD monitored the companies’ summer energy use after the significant retrofits to determine savings compared to the Title 24 You are leaving WAPA.gov. (California’s energy efficiency standards) baseline. The results from a summer of data collection indicated that both companies had reduced their energy use for cooling by around 50 percent compared to code requirements. “That falls right in the mid-range of Climate Wizard estimates of 40- to 65-percent savings,” said Parks.

The pilot system installed at Environmental Synectics combined Climate Wizard Units with conventional cooling equipment to reduce energy use during the summer cooling season.

The pilot system installed at Environmental Synectics combined Climate Wizard Units with conventional cooling equipment to reduce energy use during the summer cooling season. (Photo by Sacramento Municipal Utility District)

The benefits of IDEC for Tri-Tool went beyond lower electricity bills. The Climate Wizard not only made the facility more comfortable, but it purged contaminated air from the shop floor. The dry air supplied by IDEC also reduced the humidity in the shop, a problem caused by the use of water in the manufacturing process.

Recognition rolls in
The NARUC award is not the first one SMUD has received for the IDEC project. APPA honored the project with its 2017 Energy Innovator Award You are leaving WAPA.gov. and then nominated it for the NARUC award. “I didn’t know we were in the running until NARUC called to tell me that we won,” recalled Parks.

He added that SMUD enjoys getting the recognition. But it would be even better if the awards called attention to a product that, in the right climate, can reduce a large commercial customer’s energy use by double-digit percentages. The Climate Wizard could also help summer-peaking utilities effectively reduce their air conditioning loads. And that is better than any award.

Source: Public Power Daily, 11/15/17