September 2009

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Mark M. MacCracken, P.E., Pte. LEED-APEMAIL INTERVIEW - Mark MacCracken & Ken Sinclair

Mark M. MacCracken, P.E., Pte. LEED-AP

Mark M. MacCracken is the CEO of CALMAC Manufacturing Corporation, which is the largest manufacturer of Thermal Energy Storage equipment in the world, with over 3,300 installations in 35 countries. In his over 30 years with the firm, he has been involved in all aspects of the company including, R&D contracts, patents, manufacturing, marketing and finance. He was the Principal Investigator on research projects with Oak Ridge National Labs, NASA and National Renewable Energy Research Lab.

He has his BS in Mechanical Engineering, has three U.S. Patents and is a licensed Professional Engineer in the state of New Jersey and a LEED Accredited Professional.  He is presently or has recently served as: US Green Building Council National Board of Directors; ARI Board of Directors and Thermal Storage Product Section Chairman; A Distinguished Lecturer for ASHRAE; Chairman of ASHRAE’s Thermal Storage Technical Committee; Member of Alliance to Save Energy and the Association of Energy Engineers.

Energy Storage

As we learned in high school science class, there are a number of types of energy (potential, kinetic, chemical and thermal) and each can be stored.

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Sinclair:  Is Energy Storage the “holy grail” of renewable energy?

MacCracken:  Absolutely. Renewable energy is predicted by many to replace fossil fuels. However, fossil fuels are not just energy - they are forms of stored energy, ready for use when you need them. So if you are going to try and replace them with forms of pure energy (wind is moving and solar is hot) you can’t ignore the “storage” characteristic of what you are trying to replace. As we learned in high school science class, there are a number of types of energy (potential, kinetic, chemical and thermal) and each can be stored. Notable forms of energy storage are pumped hydro (pumping water up a mountain at night), which is potential energy, flywheels for kinetic and lead acid batteries for chemical. All of these can be reconverted into electricity. Thermal Energy, is normally used at the point of use (a building) and committed to a specific purpose. For example, hot water storage for showers and ice storage for cooling the building.

Sinclair:  What are the economics of implementing Energy Storage into the Smart Grid?

MacCracken:  The cost of energy storage varies by type but most types have relatively low cost compared to the value they bring to the Grid. For instance, California has 1,000 MW of wind installed; however only 20% (200 MW) of it has typically been available when the utilities hit their peak. The installation of thermal ice storage at a building provides the ability to store energy when the wind is blowing at night and to then use the stored energy during the peak hours the following day. With storage you can get 100% of wind’s output during peak hours (20% from wind and 80% from energy storage) for less than 33% of the installed cost of adding additional wind turbines. Ultimately, the peak capacity of the wind resource is increased by a factor of 5 and the cost per delivered peak kW is decreased by 1/3.

Sinclair:  Grid-side storage is an important solution for enabling renewable energy resources. Why should people consider “building-side” Storage?

MacCracken:  Economics and Energy Efficiency. The economics are clear. Thermal storage at the building is the least expensive of all the storage types. Some see a drawback in that it can’t be converted back to electricity. However since the largest component of on-peak energy use is the creation of cooling, there is plenty of need for the stored cooling. As far as efficiency, again thermal storage comes out on top. Pumped hydro, as described above, uses excess nighttime electricity to creates a lake on top of a mountain and then during the day runs it down and through a turbine to re-create the electricity. The round trip “cycle efficiency” of this is about 65% to 70%. Other forms of large scale energy storage have similar numbers. Thermal storage at a building has a cycle efficiency of anywhere from 85% to 99%. So in energy terms thermal storage is a clear winner.

Sinclair:  How does Ice Storage work?

MacCracken:  Basically a standard chiller is run at night and cools a fluid (antifreeze coolant) which is then pumped to a coil of tubing that is submerged in an insulated tank of water. The coolant removes the heat from the water and returns to the chiller. The removal of heat from the water causes it to freeze. During the day the chiller is turned off and the coolant is used to melt the ice and then circulates to the building to cool the building. Essentially it is very similar to a conventional building’s system except the storage allows the decoupling of when you create the cooling from when you need it.

Control Solutions, Inc Sinclair:  Why is Energy Storage important to building automation?

MacCracken:  Many things that are done for demand response affect comfort or the convenience of building occupants (i.e. shutting down escalators, raising room temperatures, dimming lights, etc). In contrast, Storage is transparent to the building occupants – they have no idea how the building is being cooled, they just know that it is, and they are comfortable. The building owner is saving energy and money with no impact on the occupants, while allowing the control people to shift the largest single electric usage in the building to another time.

Sinclair:  Provide examples of businesses using Storage today.

MacCracken:  Literally thousands of companies around the world are using the CALMAC Ice Bank® system to cool their buildings. Installation capacity sizes range from 30 ton-hours required by a McDonald’s franchise in Geneva, Switzerland to the 30,000 ton-hours needed for the JC Penney corporate headquarters in Plano, TX or the T&C Building in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, the 10th tallest building in the world. Thousands of energy conscious customers such as the Durst Organization, Credit Suisse, Rockefeller Center, Morgan Stanley, the University of Arizona, Underwriters Laboratories, Trane, Kohl’s, DuPont and Nordstrom are storing their cooling at night along with many school districts, universities and medical centers.


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