Erda

31st January 2019

Carbon content of heat NY

At Erda, we believe in measuring the output of carbon emissions produced by our geo-exchange technology. On our Erda Insights page you can view the live carbon emission data from an Erda system compared to a gas boiler system at any point in time.

As renewable energy becomes a more discussed topic in the US it is important to focus on certain characteristics of fuel sources, specifically the carbon content of heat (CCH). You can track the CCH for different fuel sources and compare them at set times to an individual state’s energy grid.

 

Heat in NY

New York State is home to nearly 20 million people and stretches over 54,000 square miles, which is larger than the entire country of England. Using the Köppen Climate Classification, NYS has 2 different climate types and is dominated by a warm humid continental climate. However, it’s not uncommon for it to be snowing in Buffalo one day while its sunny and 65 degrees Fahrenheit down state in the city area. With a wide range of temperatures, it’s both difficult and important to have reliable fuel sources and proper heat infrastructure in place.

Figure 1 below was taken from NYS Census Energy Andy Arthur, to help determine main heating fuels used throughout the state.

The Adirondack region in the North shows biomass as a primary fuel source, which given the regions resources makes sense, and when grown and harvested properly can be considered a sustainable fuel source. Areas in Western NY such as Buffalo and Rochester find themselves being more dependent on natural gas which they generally are importing from Pennsylvania and Ohio. Long Island and areas around Dutchess and Sullivan County still are using fuel oil to heat their homes.

                                               Fig. 1 Heating fuels by Region

According to the EIA, in 2016 NY generated 248.2 trillion BTU’s of energy with hydropower and another 132 trillion BTU’s of energy with biomass which helps the state to meet its renewable energy standard of 50% by 2030. More NY energy targets include a 40% reduction in GHG emissions and 185 trillion BTU’s of energy saved by 2030 according to NYSERDA.

With fuel oil and natural gas still being popular primary fuel sources for heating, it is crucial for NY to find new, greener ways to heat and cool its homes and buildings.

 

Carbon Content of Heat in the US

We wanted to look back at the carbon content for the electrical grid (NYISO) in NY to see how using Erda’s technology in that grid might compare to existing heating technologies. To do this, we gathered real time carbon data for the NY electricity grid – we obtained this data from electricityMap in 5-minute intervals.

The net thermal energy output by Erda systems and the net electrical consumption used by our systems was gathered from our Erda | smart™ platform to determine what the carbon content of our heat could be. We compared these emissions of the Erda system to other technologies. Read more about the methodology we use to calculate the CCH at Erda here.

These CCH values can then be compared over the past few years to help us to see the trends in the CCH of different fuel sources in NY.  Insights into these trends can help determine the best possible solutions for the state to meet their carbon reduction and clean energy goals.

 

Results

The graph below shows what the CCH could have been for different fuel sources in NYS over the past three years. The carbon content of states electrical grid is represented by the yellow line while the top grey line could represent the CCH for a typical CHP system.

 

 

                                                                                             Fig. 2 CCH NY

Since 2015, the carbon intensity of the grid in NY has trended consistently 50 gCO2/kWh below the CCH for a CHP system.

Erda’s technology in NY sees its highest CCH during summer months where electricity from the grid is less clean due to the cooling demand . Because geo-exchange works best in a balanced climate, the technology would allow for more heat to be stored during summer months and more cooling to be stored in winter months causing for less of a demand on the grid during these peak times.

As shown, when the carbon intensity of the grid decreases, the CCH of the CHP system increases.  This is concerning for the future of CHP, as we look to green our energy and heat buildings with low carbon fuel sources. When CHP systems are operating on a dirty grid, the electricity generated from the machine is offsetting dirty electricity from the grid – Because the grid is already so clean, CHP is in danger of offsetting clean nuclear and hydro resources – making the heat generated by the system even more dirty . Edra’s technology will do the opposite and get cleaner with the grid.

Natural gas, one of the most common ways homes are heated in NY, shows a higher carbon content than the NY grid  emitting approximately 219 grams of CO2 per kWh for each kWh of energy generated by a gas boiler operating at 82% efficiency. That’s important to note as much of NY views natural gas as a clean heating transition fuel and that NY uses the sixth highest amount of NG in the US according to the EIA. The state’s electrical grid  emits less CO2 per kWh than gas boilers – showing it isn’t a clean enough heating source for the future.

NY’s electrical grid has appeared consistently cleaner than CHP systems in the last 3 years – Given the cleanliness of the grid, the Erda technology could operate as a low carbon heating and cooling system emitting less than 50 gCO2/kWh of heat generated. Erda’s technology could help reduce carbon emissions by 75% in NY state.

Electrification of heat

Edra’s technology allows for reliable heating and cooling with low carbon emissions. The technology uses a combination of heat pumps and electricity from the grid  and other locally sourced electricity to heat and cool buildings.

NY currently has the ninth highest carbon emissions in the US per capita, many coming from heating and cooling fuel sources. To drive these emission levels down, electrifying heat through geo-exchange technology will be necessary to help states meet targets and regulations.

New York has the 19th most expensive gas prices in the country and prices are on the rise . Costs of NG has increased by 23% in November 2018 alone due to a cold start to the heating season (reported by the EIA) – the increase in price causes demand for new heating technology. Extreme weather such as Superstorm Sandy and the 2014 Buffalo Blizzard also have raised some concern. These storms left people without electricity and heat for days in New York State. With Erda’s geo-exchange infrastructure being underground, there would be less risk of damage and long-term outages  during severe storms that we are likely to get more of in NY. With the states balance of extreme temperatures (hot weather in summer and cold in the winter), the “battery” element of our system (or when we store energy in the ground) will help to balance the system and protect the building from these temperature extremes which will also benefit the buildings and the people during storms throughout the year.

In 2014 Governor Cuomo announced his plans to ban hydraulic fracturing, better known as “fracking” in the state. Energy security comes from using natural resources for energy that’s locally sourced whether at a state or national level. With heating demand being so high in NY for much of the year, it’s important to have locally sourced fuel to avoid any potential outages. Erda’s technology allows for this energy security.

Although NY state does not produce their own natural gas, they do continue to import and use it. High Country News reported that between January 2010 and November 2017 there was 17.55 billion cubic feet of methane gas that leaked from natural gas being transported. The amount of natural gas that leaked was enough energy to heat 233,000 homes for 1 year. Not only were these leaks wasteful but they were also extremely harmful, causing damage to the environment and 100 fatalities. Erda’s technology is a safer way to heat homes and while the energy is generated on site there’s no harm that could potentially occur through transporting it.

The state’s Governor has already announced his plans to meet energy efficiency targets by 2025 which include the use of heat pumps for heating and cooling. These plans will help save on large amounts of heating fuels currently used in NYS. NY also has plans for greening their heat sources through programs such as NYC Clean Heat. With states looking for low carbon heating and cooling options, electrifying heat through heat pumps is the best option. States are currently investing money into R&D of heat pump technology, however Erda technology already has a proven success record – over the past seven years it has demonstrated to be smart, efficient, and a reliable low carbon heat source.

 

Rachel Feeney
Erda Energy Analyst

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