A solar thermal system with seasonal storage for a net-zero energy school

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Taylor, Benjamin G.
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Electronic thesis
Architectural sciences
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The solar collection area and the capacity of the thermal storage determine the portion of a building demand for energy that can be met with solar energy produced by a STS. The fraction of the total energy requirement supplied by the STS, the solar fraction (SF), is typically limited by the availability of the solar resource and the seasonal mismatch between the supply of solar energy and the demands for thermal energy. There are a variety of analysis tools for determining the collector area and storage volume necessary to meet a desired solar fraction. This thesis uses the STS simulation capabilities of EnergyPlus extended by a Unix Bash shell script to determine a reasonable range of collector area and storage volume combinations for the space heating and water heating demands of a proposed net-zero energy elementary school building in New York City. Emphasis is placed on the potential for the STS to achieve high SFs through the use of very large storage volumes that are capable of storing energy collected in the summer season for use in the winter season. The achievement of high SFs, particularly for space heating demands, would be significant to the net-zero energy goal.
The results from the automated parametric study of the STS collector area and thermal storage capacity are presented as well as the sensitivity of the results to the type of collector and the weather file. The architectural implications of the simulation results are discussed. The scale of thermal storage necessary for seasonal energy storage using water within an insulated tank as the storage medium is determined to be architecturally infeasible due to the volume required. A novel design for the storage of seasonal quantities of thermal energy within a building foundation and the regulation of the release of heat directly from the thermal store to the building is proposed as future work.
Due to a growing awareness of the negative effects of the wide-spread use of fossil fuels as an energy source, there is a renewed interest in investigating ways to collect and utilize renewable forms of energy. Because buildings account for 39% of total energy use, they represent a significant opportunity for conservation of energy derived from non-renewable sources and implementation of renewable energy systems. Of the energy used by buildings in the United States the largest portion, 19.8%, is used for heating. Solar Thermal Systems (STS), which convert solar radiation into thermal energy, can meet a portion of this demand for heat.
May 2012
School of Architecture
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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY
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