Development and analysis of micro polygeneration systems and adsorption chillers

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About a fifth of all primary energy in the US is consumed by residential buildings, mostly for cooling, heating and to provide electricity. Furthermore, retrofits are essential to reducing this consumption, since the buildings that exist today will comprise over half of those in use in 2050. Residential combined heat and power (or micro CHP, defined by <5 kW electrical generation capacity) has been identified as a retrofit technology which can reduce energy consumption in existing homes during the heating season by 5-30%. This thesis investigates the addition of a thermally-driven chiller/heat pump to a CHP system (to form a trigeneration system) to additionally provide savings during the cooling season, and enhance heating season savings. Scenarios are identified in which adding thermally-driven equipment to a micro CHP system reduces primary energy consumption, through analytical and experimental investigations. The experimental focus is on adsorption heat pump systems, which are capable of being used with the CHP engines (prime movers) that are already widely deployed. The analytical analysis identifies energy saving potential off-grid for today's prime movers, with potential on-grid for various fuel cell technologies.

A novel dynamic test facility was developed to measure real-world residential trigeneration system performance using a prototype adsorption chiller. The chiller was designed and constructed for this thesis and was driven by waste heat from a commercially available natural gas-fueled 4 kW (electric) CHP engine. A control strategy for the chiller was developed, enabling a 5-day experiment to be run using a thermal load profile based on moderate Maryland summer air conditioning loads and typical single-family domestic hot water demand, with experimental results in agreement with models. In this summer mode, depending on electrical loads, the trigeneration system used up to 36% less fuel than off-grid separate generation and up to 29% less fuel than off-grid CHP without thermally driven cooling. However, compared to on-grid separate generation, the experimental facility used 16% more primary energy. Despite high chiller performance relative to its thermodynamic limit, this result is primarily due to the electrical efficiency of the prime mover being lower than the grid. A residential trigeneration system utilizing a high temperature fuel cell is predicted to save up to 42% primary energy relative to the grid.