Solar Thermal Off-Season Heat Storage Outcomes Report to AACTI (Fall 2010)

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1 Principle Investigator: Rob Baron Lakeland College Solar Thermal Off-Season Heat Storage Outcomes Report to AACTI (Fall 2010) Collaborating Investigators Mel Mathison Lakeland College Executive Summary The Renewable Energy Cabin project has been successfully collected data from its solar PV and heat systems since During the summer (April September) months excess heat is generated by the evacuated tube solar collectors. If stored and recovered this excess heat could be used to meet part of the building s heat demand in late fall. A 4500 litre underground water storage was installed and used as a thermal mass for heat storage. All of the solar thermal heat collected for the month of February was directed into the water tank through a copper coil heat exchanger. The total heat added by the hot water collectors was 727 GJ. The temperature of the water in the tank was raised from 5.8 C to 28.7 C during the month of February that represented 431 GJ of heat. The difference between heat added and stored is assumed to have been lost to the surrounding ground. The thermal heat loss characteristics of the buried tank were empirically determined by letting the heat dissipate from the tank for the month of March and monitoring the temperature drop. During the 2010 summer all the heat collected was directed to the underground tank. The temperature of the water in the tank reached a maximum of 46 C. Heat gain and heat loss reached equilibrium at about 43 C. This implies maximum heat storage of 622 GJ with this system assuming all the heat between 43 C and 10 C could be recovered. The ground temperature near the heat storage tank outside of the tank insulation increased from 3.3 C to 18 C during the test period resulting from the loss of heat from the tank to the surrounding soil. This baseline data was used to help predict the heat that can be captured by the solar system, the heat storage potential, and the amount of heat that can be recovered from a small residential solar system. Project Objectives This applied research/demonstration project utilized the newly established Renewable Energy Cabin (Energy Cabin) facility at Lakeland College and a custom built data acquisition system to provide real-time system information on a live website accessed by renewable energy students and the public.

2 Specific objectives of the proposed project are to: 1. perform a literature search to determine the optimal water storage size in relation to the thermal output of the solar collectors at our latitude and sun potential 2. design and install an in-ground water storage system adjacent to the Energy Cabin tied into the solar thermal heating. 3. install the instrumentation and monitor the heat storage and recovery from the thermal storage during the spring, summer and fall-winter periods. Background There has been great interest in renewable energy lately and many home owners and small businesses are investigating the employment of solar or wind technologies to supply all or some of their energy needs. The public has many questions about how to design, install and integrate systems, and how efficient these systems are at our northern latitudes. In an effort to provide some answers to these questions, Lakeland College has constructed a small building (the Renewable Energy Cabin), that is intended to function exclusively using renewable energy technologies. A modified shed package (13.5 x 24 feet) has been built so that one end can be used as a small meeting room. The meeting room also provides a needed load or demand for the renewable energy that will be generated. The building is off-grid and provides a realistic small-scale centre for applied research and demonstration of renewable energy technologies. The building employs 1.75 kw of photo-voltaic (PV) solar panels, a small 2 kw wind turbine for electricity, and evacuated-tube hot water solar collectors to supplement heat to the building. The solar hot water system has a rated capacity of approximately 2000 watts in full sun. The goal of this project was to collect the heat generated in the summer months and store the heat in an insulated water tank buried near the Energy Cabin. Water is commonly used to store heat. Data collected from this project will be used as baseline information from which to compare novel or experimental heat storage products in the future. Summary of work completed at Lakeland College A 4500 litre fiberglass underground water storage tank was installed adjacent to the Renewable Energy Cabin located on the Lakeland College Vermilion campus. The tank was placed in an insulated box made from 30 cm thick sheets of extruded polystyrene insulation. The tank was backfilled with sand. The hot glycol solution circulating through the solar collectors was directed to a copper coil within the tank to transfer heat to the storage tank. The temperature of the glycol solution to and from the tank heat exchanger coil was measured as well as the flow rate to determine the heat added to the system. Sensors were added to measure the water temperature within the tank and ground temperature near the tank outside of the tank insulation. The temperature and flow sensors were read by a Campbell Scientific CR1000 data logger using a custom program written using the LoggerNet software development system. Weather data was recorded using a Davis Vantage Pro weather station with the WeatherNet software. A solar radiation sensor was added to the standard weather station to record horizontal insolation in W/m 2. All the heat generated by the solar collectors was transferred to the underground storage tank from February 1, 2010 to March 7, From March 7 th to April 30 th the temperature in the tank was allowed to decay. The rate of temperature decay was analyzed to determine the heat loss rate given the difference in temperature between the water in the tank and the surrounding soil. After May 12 th the heat from the solar collectors was no longer needed to heat the building and was directed to the underground storage tank. Heat was added for the entire summer to observe the maximum possible tank temperature and the equilibrium temperature where heat added by the solar system equaled the heat lost to the surrounding ground.

3 Results The temperature of the water in the tank was raised from 5.8 C to 28.7 C during the February charging period increasing the energy of the tank by 431 GJ. During this time 727 GJ of energy was added to the tank from the solar system. The difference or 296 GJ of heat was assumed to be lost to the surrounding soil and air above ground. Once solar heat was directed away from the tank, the temperature dropped about 0.5 C per day initially and 0.3 C per day later as the tank cooled (Figure 1). During this period an average loss of 6.6 GJ/day was observed. Figure 1 - Temperature increase and decrease in storage tank during test period The rate of heat lost is related to the temperature of the water in the tank and the temperature of the surrounding soil and air. Figure 1 also shows a gradual increase in soil temperature surrounding the tank. Solar heat was directed to the storage tank during the summer months. The installed solar hot water system consistently produced heat at a rate of 600 to 1200 watts during sunlight hours. The collector system produced an average of 9 kw-hr/day of heat during June and July collecting an average of 32.4 GJ of energy each day. During this period the water in the storage tank reached a maximum of 46 C. The tank material was rated for 80 C and should safely contain this water. Heat gain and heat loss reached equilibrium at a tank temperature of about 43 C. This implies maximum heat storage of 622 GJ with this system assuming all the heat between 43 C and 10 C could be recovered. This assumes that heat could be extracted to reduce the temperature to 10 C.Based on a HOT2000 analysis of the space heat load for the Energy Cabin, the predicted heat demand for the building is 67 GJ for September, 618 GJ for October and 1800 GJ for November. The heat stored in the tank is approximately equal to the heating demand for the month of October and about one-third of the November demand. Since the solar system will continue to add heat during the fall the heat in the storage tank will not be needed until the end of October. Last year supplemental gas heat was required after November 15 th in order to maintain 20 C inside temperature. By using the stored heat in the tank the need for supplemental heat could be delayed well into December.

4 The ground temperature near the heat storage tank outside of the tank insulation increased from 3.3 C to 18 C during the test period indicating loss of heat from the tank to the surrounding soil. Some of the heat stored in the ground may be recovered adding to the storage of the tank itself. Figure 2 - Tank and Ground temperatures over complete season Conclusions and Recommendations The thermal properties of an underground water storage tank were evaluated to determine its seasonal heat storage potential. For the given situation, it appears that the fraction of building heat demand supplied by the solar hot water system can be increased using the thermal mass of water in an insulated tank. Typically heat generated by the solar collectors in the summer would be wasted. By storing some of the summer heat in the water tank the need for supplemental propane heat can be delayed by up to one month. This increases the proportion of building heat supplied solely from the solar collectors. Next steps would include the development of a suitable heat recovery system and monitoring of system performance for the fall of 2010 to verify system performance predictions. The performance of this water-based system can be used as a baseline to compare novel heat storage systems in the future. Such systems include phase change materials and storage of heat in chemical bonds. The cost of seasonal heat storage systems needs to be evaluated. Heat recovery systems like the one tested can be expensive to install. At currently low natural gas prices most are not economically feasible. An economic analysis can identify situations or price thresholds were installation of thermal storage systems become practical. Impact on the Educational Environment Lakeland students enrolled in the on-line Renewable Energy Certificate receive the greatest benefits from the data available. Knowledge gained will enhance the course content using case studies from Lakeland s Renewable Energy Cabin. All detailed performance data is available to students directly from the Energy Cabin s website (www.lakelandecabin.ca). Throughout the year the Energy Cabin is the focus of many tours and talks directed at Lakeland students, and

5 public visitors. Knowledge gained during this research project can be transferred to students, industry partners and visitors. Benefits Realized This project has provided the essential baseline information required to move forward with further studies in seasonal heat storage. The installed system has moved the Renewable Energy Cabin at Lakeland closer to its target of complete energy independence. Next Steps A heat recovery system will be installed in the tank to recover the heat stored in the tank. In order to increase the quality of the heat we will investigate using a fractional tonne heat pump to upgrade the temperature of the water for use in the hydronic heating system of the building. The performance of the recovery system will be monitored to evaluate its performance. The plumbing system will also be modified to automatically direct unneeded solar heat to the underground storage tank which will help smooth out diurnal variations for the entire year as well as providing seasonal heat storage.

6 Activity Photos Figure 3 - Buried and insulated water tank installed to store heat Figure 4 - Sample screen shot from showing system status

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