NREL Develops Diagnostic Test Cases to Improve Building Energy Simulation Programs

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This technical highlight describes NREL research to develop a set of diagnostic test cases for building energy simulations in order to achieve more accurate energy use and savings predictions.

Measure Guideline: Water Management at Tub and Shower Assemblies

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Due to the high concentrations of water and the consequential risk of water damage to the home’s structure a comprehensive water management system is imperative to protect the building assemblies underlying the finish surround of tub and shower areas. This guide shows how to install fundamental waterproofing strategies to prevent water related issues at shower and tub areas.

Sustainability Assessment of Coal-Fired Power Plants with Carbon Capture and Storage

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Carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) has the ability to dramatically reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from power production. Most studies find the potential for 70 to 80 percent reductions in CO2 emissions on a life-cycle basis, depending on the technology. Because of this potential, utilities and policymakers are considering the wide-spread implementation of CCS technology on new and existing coal plants to dramatically curb greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the power generation sector. However, the implementation of CCS systems will have many other social, economic, and environmental impacts beyond curbing GHG emissions that must be considered to achieve sustainable energy generation. For example, emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur oxides (SOx), and particulate matter (PM) are also important environmental concerns for coal-fired power plants. For example, several studies have shown that eutrophication is expected to double and acidification would increase due to increases in NOx emissions for a coal plant with CCS provided by monoethanolamine (MEA) scrubbing. Potential for human health risks is also expected to increase due to increased heavy metals in water from increased coal mining and MEA hazardous waste, although there is currently not enough information to relate this potential to actual realized health impacts. In addition to environmental and human health impacts, supply chain impacts and other social, economic, or strategic impacts will be important to consider. A thorough review of the literature for life-cycle analyses of power generation processes using CCS technology via the MEA absorption process, and other energy generation technologies as applicable, yielded large variability in methods and core metrics. Nonetheless, a few key areas of impact for CCS were developed from the studies that we reviewed. These are: the impact of MEA generation on increased eutrophication and acidification from ammonia emissions and increased toxicity from MEA production and the impact of increased coal use including the increased generation of NOx from combustion and transportation, impacts of increased mining of coal and limestone, and the disposal of toxic fly ash and boiler ash waste streams. Overall, the implementing CCS technology could contribute to a dramatic decrease in global GHG emissions, while most other environmental and human health impact categories increase only slightly on a global scale. However, the impacts on human toxicity and ecotoxicity have not been studied as extensively and could have more severe impacts on a regional or local scale. More research is needed to draw strong conclusions with respect to the specific relative impact of different CCS technologies. Specifically, a more robust data set that disaggregates data in terms of component processes and treats a more comprehensive set of environmental impacts categories from a life-cycle perspective is needed. In addition, the current LCA framework lacks the required temporal and spatial scales to determine the risk of environmental impact from carbon sequestration. Appropriate factors to use when assessing the risk of water acidification (groundwater/oceans/aquifers depending on sequestration site), risk of increased human toxicity impact from large accidental releases from pipeline or wells, and the legal and public policy risk associated with licensing CO2 sequestration sites are also not currently addressed. In addition to identifying potential environmental, social, or risk-related issues that could impede the large-scale deployment of CCS, performing LCA-based studies on energy generation technologies can suggest places to focus our efforts to achieve technically feasible, economically viable, and environmentally conscious energy generation technologies for maximum impact.

2011 Annual Progress Report: DOE Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Program

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In the past year, the DOE Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Program (the Program) made substantial progress toward its goals and objectives. The Program has conducted comprehensive and focused efforts to enable the widespread commercialization of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies in diverse sectors of the economy. With emphasis on applications that will effectively strengthen our nation’s energy security and improve our stewardship of the environment, the Program engages in research, development, and demonstration of critical improvements in the technologies. Highlights of the Program’s accomplishments can be found in the sub-program chapters of this report.

Reducing Data Center Loads for a Large-Scale, Net Zero Office Building

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In constructing a new research facility for its campus, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) project team identified the opportunity to design a world-class, energy-efficient data center to support its operations. NREL’s efforts resulted in a highly efficient data center that demonstrated considerable energy savings in its first 11 months of operations. Using legacy data center performance as a baseline, the new facility cut energy use by nearly 1,450,000 kWh, delivering cost savings of approximately $82,000. The data center’s average total load was 165 kW less than the legacy center’s average total load, resulting in a 60% reduction in overall power. Finally, the limited use of cooling and fan energy enabled the new data center to achieve a 1.16 average power utilization effectiveness (PUE) rating, compared to the legacy data center’s PUE of 2.28.

National Geographic: Maps

From The Scout Report, Copyright Internet Scout 1994-2012 (

Many people have fond memories of the special maps created as inserts placed in the National Geographic magazine from time to time.  This rather special section of the National Geographic’s website provides interested parties with a dazzling array of thematic maps that document the European exploration of North America, ecological zones, and the world of the poet Basho. Visitors might do well to start by looking over the “Editors’ Picks” area. Here they will find atlas jigsaw puzzles to play online and “EarthPulse: A Visual Guide to Trends”. The “EarthPulse” area includes vital statistics about global population trends, economic opportunity, and more. The site also includes the “Atlas Explorer”, which allows users to explore detailed political maps of the USA, Africa, Europe, and the world’s oceans.

JSTOR Gets Personal

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For a subscription-based content vault like JSTOR, the economy of the modern Web is a double-edged sword.

On one side, you have open-culture hacktivists like Aaron Swartz trying to spring your paywalled content by allegedly sneaking into a wiring closet at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and downloading 4.8 million documents from your online archive. This edge can cut against you — as it did in July, when Swartz’s caper framed the open-access debate (fairly or not) in terms of Swartz, the geek-hero, versus JSTOR, the Scrooge.

On the other side, you have universal Web search engines sending droves of unlikely visitors to your content. They might not be paying the toll to get in, but the fact that they found their way to the door means your potential clientele is larger, and closer at hand, than you had imagined. And if your mission is the dissemination of knowledge, that’s a good thing.

This edge can cut for you — and JSTOR has begun trying to wield it to expand the archive’s user base. In 2009, the nonprofit opened its Alumni Access pilot, a program that allows subscribing institutions to pay an extra fee to buy lifetime access to the archive for its alumni. Then, last September, JSTOR announced its Early Journal Content program, which allows anybody in the world to download hundreds of thousands of the older articles in its archive for free, no matter where they went to college.

Now JSTOR is getting ready to go one step further, by cutting a small window in its paywall for visitors who are not affiliated with any subscribing institution. The new program, called Register & Read, will soon let anybody read articles in the JSTOR archives at no cost.