Western Cooling Efficiency Center saves watts and grid peaks

A University of California, Davis laboratory strives for efficiencies

(Based on a personal visit 10-17–16)

To accelerate development and commercialization of efficient heating, cooling, and energy distribution solutions through stakeholder engagement, innovation, R&D, education and outreach.

That’s WCEC’s Mission Statement.  It reflects a nexus of university capacity, research and development, and industry effort in the search for innovation that extends California’s  green policy path.

Equipment performance testing inside the controlled environmental chamber.

Equipment performance testing inside the controlled environmental chamber.

Located in West Davis, much of the center’s research is for cooling in a hot/dry climate, typical of nearly all of California during the summertime.  With that climate comes the opportunity to use the power of evaporation for cooling.  But, this isn’t the near pre-historic use of a swamp cooler (adding humidity to conditioned spaces).  Instead, new strides were made with indirect evaporative cooling, where moistened air doesn’t enter inhabited space but goes to the atmosphere.  

And now, the power of evaporative pre-cooling of air conditioning condensers is bringing efficiency boosts to HVAC equipment  and significant reductions in peak electrical demand that electrical utilities and grid managers celebrate.

The ongoing efficiency challenge.

The ongoing efficiency challenge.

WCEC offers a continuous Western Cooling Challenge to manufacturers of HVAC equipment, seeking to break existing records for efficiency and demand reduction.  Recognition for the winners helps to bring better equipment more quickly to the market, alerting utilities (possible incentives) and consumers (market demand) alike that improvements are available.  This reinforces the value of patents for those developers of technology improvement.

The innovative approaches developed at WCEC are centered around electricity savings and demand reduction that are applicable for residential, commercial, and industrial-scale buildings.  As more manufacturers incorporate the fruits of this research, next generation equipment will be more available and widely known.  WCEC, in the center of California’s hot/dry climate just a few miles from the state Capitol where green policies advance—this is as it should be. 

—Bill Martin