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The award-winning Phase Change Matters blog tracks the latest news and research on phase change materials and thermal energy storage. E-mail tips and comments to Ben Welter, communications director at Entropy Solutions. Follow the blog on Twitter at @PureTemp. Subscribe to the monthly PCM newsletter. Or join the discussion on LinkedIn.




Long Beach TES project qualifies for nearly $1 million in rebates

Ben Welter - Thursday, December 03, 2015

A major retrofit of the Molina Center in Long Beach, Calif., has qualified for nearly $1 million in energy rebates through Southern California Edison's Permanent Load Shift program.

EMCOR Services Mesa Energy Systems installed a thermal energy storage system that chills a glycol-based solution during off-peak hours, when demand and costs are lowest. The chilled solution is used to cool the complex during hours of peak demand. The new system has reduced annual energy consumption by 755,775 kilowatt hours and cut operating costs by $250,000 a year. 

Molina Healthcare hired Mesa Energy to install the TES system, water chillers, cooling towers, pumps and piping in the 460,000-square-foot office and entertainment complex.

Registration open for 2016 Energy Innovation Summit in Washington, D.C.

Ben Welter - Tuesday, November 24, 2015

"Early bird" registration is open for the 2016 Energy Innovation Summit in Washington, D.C. The annual conference, hosted by ARPA-E and the U.S. Energy Department, brought together more than 2,000 entrepreneurs, researchers, industry leaders and government officials in 2015.

Advanced Cooling Technologies and the Electric Power Research Institute, which are developing PCM-based dry-cooling technologies for thermoelectric power plants, are among the 184 showcase participants now listed for this year's summit. 

Registration rates for the Feb. 29-March 1 conference will increase by $100 after Dec. 1. Graduate students seeking a complimentary pass must apply by Dec. 4.  

Oregon's new energy storage mandate is 'technology agnostic'

Ben Welter - Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Utility Dive examines Oregon's new energy storage mandate, which requires PGE and PacifiCorp to have at least 5 MWh of energy storage in service by Jan. 1, 2020. The Oregon Public Utilities Commission will meet with stakeholders in 2016 to develop guidelines for utilities. Herman K. Trabish writes:

"The law limits the amount of storage a utility can procure or develop at 1% of the company's peak load, although they can obtain waivers from the OPUC for larger systems if more than one utility shares the program and its cost. In 2014, PGE reported a peak load of 3,866 MW in the state, and PacifiCorp's was about 2,377 MW, according to a blog post on the law from K&L Gates attorneys.

"Any technology that captures energy, stores and delivers it is considered eligible. That includes batteries, flywheels, compressed air energy storage, thermal storage, and pumped hydro-power, according to a state Senate staff filing. The law is 'technology-agnostic, but industry realizes the declining price in battery storage,' it adds.

" 'Certain types of storage can be cost effective today, and advances in technology are expected to continue this trend,' said Hillary Barbour, policy director of advocacy group Renewable Northwest. 'The legislation’s definition of energy storage is broad enough to allow for all types of storage technology.' "

PCM-based free cooling in buildings: A way forward

Ben Welter - Wednesday, October 07, 2015

A review of research on PCM-based free cooling in buildings suggests that increased thermal conductivity, wider governmental support and heightened public awareness are essential to wider adoption of the technology. Among the other conclusions by a team of researchers at two universities in India:

• The free-cooling concept is best suited for less humid and maximum diurnal temperature range regions. However, with careful design of heat exchangers along with dehumidification of air, free cooling can be effectively implemented even in warm and humid areas.

• By decreasing the inlet air temperature with optimal inlet air velocity, solidification time can be reduced and thus the PCM can be charged in less time.

• Supercooling can be reduced by adding nucleating agents but cannot be mitigated completely.

• Mapping of free-cooling potential zones and construction of large-scale demonstration projects are essential to making the technology commercially viable.

• Commercializing and mass implementation of free-cooling technology in residential sectors will curtail air conditioner use and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Registration open for 2016 ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit

Ben Welter - Thursday, September 17, 2015

Registration for the 2016 ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit is now open. The summit, which is aimed at moving transformational energy technologies out of the lab and into the marketplace, will be held Feb. 29-March 2 at the Gaylord Convention Center outside Washington, D.C.

More than 2,100 people attended the 2015 summit. Next year's showcase participants include Argonne National Laboratory, BASF, the Electric Power Research Institute and the National Renewable Energy Lab.

District energy seen as essential way for cities to cut greenhouse gases, improve energy efficiency

Ben Welter - Thursday, August 13, 2015

A survey of low-carbon cities worldwide identifies district energy systems as an essential tool for local governments seeking to reduce greenhouse gases and improve energy efficiency.

U.N. Environment Program logoThe U.N. Environment Program report, "District Energy in Cities – Unlocking the Potential of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy," calls for the accelerated deployment of district energy systems around the world. From the report's executive summary:

"The development of modern (i.e., energy-efficient and climate-resilient) and affordable district energy systems in cities is one of the least-cost and most-efficient solutions for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and primary energy demand. A transition to such systems, combined with energy efficiency measures, could contribute as much as 58 per cent of the carbon dioxide (CO2) emission reductions required in the energy sector by 2050 to keep global temperature rise to within 2-3 degrees Celsius."

Paris, one of the 45 "champion" cities surveyed, developed Europe's first cooling network, part of which uses the Seine River. The Paris Urban Heating Co., which now serves the equivalent of 500,000 households, aims to use 60 percent renewable or recovered energy by 2020. Other cities in the report include TokyoMunichHong KongGuelph (Canada), Warsaw (Poland) and Christchurch (New Zealand).

Behind-the-meter storage is among the topics at Energy Storage Summit

Ben Welter - Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The U.S. Energy Storage Summit's 2015 agenda is taking shape. The first day includes a morning session on the future of behind-the-meter storage in California: 

"California has emerged as the largest behind-the-meter storage market due to renewable energy growth, high electricity prices, state mandate, and the Self Generation Incentive Program. Southern California Edison's procurement decision of 150 megawatts behind-the-meter storage for its Local Capacity Requirement has been the first on at that scale by a utility."

An afternoon session will focus on deferral and capacity benefits. Greg Miller, Ice Energy's executive vice president of sales and market development, is on the panel.

The conference will be held Dec. 8-9 in San Francisco. Registration is open.

Obama's Clean Power Plan: 14 key takeaways

Ben Welter - Monday, August 03, 2015

President Obama called it "the single most important step America has ever taken in the fight against global climate change." Critics such as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker accused the president of "overstepping the limits of his authority" and took action to block Obama's plan to drastically reduce carbon pollution from U.S. power plants. In a detailed look at the Clean Power Plan,'s Brad Plumer notes that the final version is "slightly stronger" than the draft released last summer:

"For instance, the EPA has tweaked the formula it uses to set individual state goals. States will now have until 2022 rather than 2020 before they have to start cutting. These tweaks will get lots of press attention, and they're of keen interest to policymakers and utilities. The EPA also hopes they'll solidify the rule against legal challenges. But they don't significantly alter the big picture."