"eSteam" for Net-Zero Buildings

Aprehensive_Words

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This is a little wonky, and not exterior architecture per se (mods: apologies if I put this in the wrong place!), but a fairly big deal from a building systems perspective. Apparently there's some movement on a potential solution to the green building mandates Boston is handing down.

From B&T: https://bankerandtradesman.com/fenway-lab-project-signs-green-energy-contract/

Vicinity Energy touted the launch of its carbon-free “eSteam” service to Boston commercial developers including the $1 billion Fenway Center lab project, as it begins converting its Cambridge cogeneration plant from gas to electric power.
The story has some more detail and links to a couple past stories and a column from a Vicinity spokesperson pitching the idea, but the TL;DR is: carbon-free electricity from Canadian hydropower (if it arrives), local solar or offshore wind (when it arrives) can power boilers at Vicinity's three existing cogen plants (ex-Veolia). Distribute it via existing steam pipe infrastructure and it can do its existing job of heating buildings, but also allegedly cool them, too. Apparently Michelle Wu thinks it's a good enough idea she took part in the photo-op this morning.

Does anyone know how that works? It can't be that they're sending steam through such a huge network at pressures that could power turbines or something else mechanical in each building, right? That sounds like a major engineering challenge (read: expensive) if the current system is optimized for low-pressure district heating (i.e. steam radiators).
 

shmessy

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This is a little wonky, and not exterior architecture per se (mods: apologies if I put this in the wrong place!), but a fairly big deal from a building systems perspective. Apparently there's some movement on a potential solution to the green building mandates Boston is handing down.

From B&T: https://bankerandtradesman.com/fenway-lab-project-signs-green-energy-contract/



The story has some more detail and links to a couple past stories and a column from a Vicinity spokesperson pitching the idea, but the TL;DR is: carbon-free electricity from Canadian hydropower (if it arrives), local solar or offshore wind (when it arrives) can power boilers at Vicinity's three existing cogen plants (ex-Veolia). Distribute it via existing steam pipe infrastructure and it can do its existing job of heating buildings, but also allegedly cool them, too. Apparently Michelle Wu thinks it's a good enough idea she took part in the photo-op this morning.

Does anyone know how that works? It can't be that they're sending steam through such a huge network at pressures that could power turbines or something else mechanical in each building, right? That sounds like a major engineering challenge (read: expensive) if the current system is optimized for low-pressure district heating (i.e. steam radiators).
I can't get through the B+T paywall, but I'm intrigued. Thanks for the heads up!
 

dhawkins

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Sounds like Vicinity is re-branding itself as a "district energy" plant that generates steam, and now will capture heat loss out of their stacks for electricity; for a price of course. They are investing in newer tech to expand on their existing plant. It appears Vicinity is also upgrading their Philadelphia plant to be part of a larger plan labeled "District Energy"; something that appears to have been in the works in Europe for a little while.

The link on Vicinity’s eSteam™ website has some explanation. At the 12 minute mark the host start to describe capturing the heat loss through the exhaust stacks of their current system to produce electricity. The host actually says in the video they can't give out to much information for security measures. If you can get used to the slow talking hosts; it's fairly interesting.

I also saw this video about Chicago's central chilling plant that is part of a district energy system. It is a huge building that is essentially a pool where the water is chilled overnight (at a less expensive cost point) and use the building as a cooling station during the day.

Here is a link about district energy in Stockholm.
 
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Aprehensive_Words

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Ah, I think I've found the answer to my question from a ConEd FAQ site: https://www.coned.com/en/commercial-industrial/steam/faq

In the second method, the absorption cycle, water is evaporated to provide the cooling and is then absorbed by a salt solution. Steam heat can be used to boil off the water in order to start the cycle again. Besides saving electricity, absorption chillers do not use chemicals that can harm the ozone layer, which the vapor compression method frequently does.
I guess the key is the cheap steam, which the Vicinity video you linked to seems like it's able to provide (not too, too much additional infrastructure, and the big federal regulatory lifts are more or less already taken care of).
 

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