Analysis of Energy Saving Proposals at St. Louis County Jail

The goal of this project was to evaluate three main proposals, by the Property Management Department (PMD) of St. Louis County, which the department hoped would reduce energy consumption at their Duluth Jail facility.

This particular facility was opened in 1995 and houses approximately 170 inmates. Despite its relatively new construction, the building produces some of the highest utility bills of all of the County’s buildings.

The proposals put forth by the PMD were the following: to reduce natural gas consumption by using solar water heating for the domestic hot water; to reduce heating and cooling costs by enclosing a light well which is currently open to the sky with a transparent, insulated roof; and to utilize a white roof to reduce cooling demand during the summertime.

The solar water heating proposal was evaluated by determining the energy the solar system could provide annually and comparing these energy- and monetary savings to the cost of the system. Two solar options were evaluated; one system with 20 collectors and another with 50. Both systems also included condensing boilers to provide supplementary heating during times of low solar output. The annual savings of the 20- and 50 collector systems were 128 and 173 MWh, respectively. This led to a payback period of approximately 17 years for the 20 collector system and 16 years for the 50 collector system.

Enclosing the open light well, which is an open area inside the perimeter of the building which is designed to give rooms on the inside of the building natural daylight, was evaluated by performing an energy flow analysis comparing the existing condition with one in which a roof topped the well. This involved calculating the U-values of the walls before the skyroof and then using heating and cooling degree days to determine the heat flows through the walls.

The enclosed light well was evaluated by performing an energy balance on the well to determine the temperature of the enclosed well. This temperature could then be used to calculate the heat flow through the enclosed light well’s walls. The difference in these heat flows between the two options was then converted to an economic cost to evaluate a payback period. Two grades of Kalwall-brand insulation were evaluated; the “Nanogel” grade and a mid-range grade.

The Nanogel-enclosed light well reduced the heating demand by 16 MWh but increased the cooling load by 9 MWh, while the mid-grade enclosed well decreased the heating load by 11 MWh but increased the cooling load by 4 MWh. These added up to net annual savings of $650 for the Nanogel roof and $470 for the mid-grade skyroof. However, the investment costs were so high that the payback periods were between 450 and 550 years.

Two white roofing options were considered and corresponded to a newly installed roof and one that had weathered for 3 years, thereby reducing its reflectivity. These options were evaluated by determining the mean monthly roof temperatures throughout a typical year and calculating the heat flows through the roofs based on these temperatures.

The temperatures were determined by performing a heat balance on the roofs’ surfaces and considering the solar radiation incident on the roofs. The heat flows with the existing black colored roof and the proposed white roofs were thencompared and converted into heating and cooling costs. The white roofs led to summertime air-conditioning savings but created more wintertime heat losses and therefore caused net annual energy cost increases of $560 and $240 for the new and weathered roofs, respectively.

The recommendations therefore were to implement the solar thermal system but not the other two proposals. Other areas which might benefit from additional investigations include lighting efficiency improvements, water use reductions, and replacement of the existing boilers with either more efficient natural gas units or wood-pellet/biomass boilers.
Source: University of Gävle
Author: Lillesve, Peter

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