Energy Efficiency & Conservation

The Conn Center will develop the technologies for cost effective, zero-energy buildings. Such technology development will bring Kentucky the tools that our businesses, schools, and residents need to reduce energy consumption. Toward this initiative, the Conn Center has received funding from E.On to fund an Endowed Chair as the theme leader for Energy Efficiency and Conservation theme.

Energy Efficiency and Energy Conservation: Research, Development, and Testing

Our goal is to conduct research and development of practical, economical, and potentially commercializable technologies to improve energy efficiency and energy conservation. This includes:

  • Construction Materials - A significant portion of energy used in the US, including Kentucky, relates to heating and cooling buildings. In an effort to reduce energy use, it is proposed that efforts be made to develop smart materials that use an active envelope to minimize the cooling and heating loads of buildings. This development will be focused on a holistic approach aimed at incorporating both structural and envelope functions. The initial goal of this effort will be to develop materials and assemblies that can function to support the building loading and incorporate phase change and other reactive materials. These include materials with variable conductivity that are designed to minimize the energy needed to maintain a comfortable indoor environment in Kentucky's mixed climate. The investigation will focus on conventional materials and systems in an effort to minimize costs and facilitate acceptance in the construction industry. Finally, every effort will be made to use low cost, abundant materials to ensure that these systems are sustainable and economically viable.
  • Electrochromic windows/films - Windows add significant loss or gain of heat due to infrared light transmission. Electrochromic windows or films that can be attached to the existing windows could significantly reduce space cooling demand required during hot, sunny days and reduce the heating demand during sunny winter days.
  • Solar heat pipe technology - Solar heat pipe technology can be used for reducing energy demand in several applications: heating swimming pools, reducing heating needs for space heating, increasing heat pump efficiencies, integration into solar water heaters, and providing thermal storage for homes. If implemented on a wide scale, this technology could reduce overall energy demand as well as peak demand in both the winter and summer seasons.
  • Smart grid/appliance/building for increasing energy efficiency and enabling peak load leveling or shaving.
  • Smart homes/buildings - There is a need for developing cost-effecting and reliable sensors and control and monitoring systems to interface the Smart Grid with the HVAC and appliances within residential homes and commercial buildings. It is also imperative to develop these sensors and systems to operate at low or minimal power and avoid invasive and costly wiring retrofitting.
  • Smart Grid initiatives for "customer-centric" energy utilization - Develop and integrate sensors and control systems for enabling customers to make informed decisions to reduce their energy consumption. There is also a need to develop technologies for monitoring and controlling faults and hackers to ensure power quality and grid security.
  • Waste heat recovery - Waste heat occurring in process industries (e.g., power and chemical plants), if recovered, can significantly reduce overall energy demand. Similarly, these technologies can be integrated into homes and buildings to reduce peak demand. Such technology can also be utilized for recovering heat from automobile exhaust heat.
  • Distributed and utility-scale energy storage - Cost effective energy storage technologies at various scales ranging from buildings to sub-stations to utility scale have a large impact on peak load leveling, ensuring power quality and integration of intermittent energy sources.
  • Technology testing and integration for adaptation for Kentucky customers - It is our goal to test various potentially commercializable technologies, which enable energy conservation for Kentucky customers, in terms of their ability to be integrated with other technologies.
  • Energy efficiency auditing and outreach to Kentucky schools and businesses. This outreach effort will bring awareness to various schools and businesses about improving energy efficiency and energy conservation through technology adaption. This effort also focuses on educating work forces for technology implementation.
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