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Techno-economic feasibility of hybrid energy systems for small-scale space heating applications in Canada

  • Author / Creator
    Udovichenko, Artur
  • Given the large energy consumption for space heating demands in Canada, renewable energy heating systems are becoming increasingly more popular and more important for small scale applications. However, these face tough challenges for applicability in cold climate regions due to various physical and economic limitations. Two studies presented here were designed to explore the feasibility of using renewable energy hybrid heating systems in the Canadian climate. The purpose of the first study was to evaluate the techno-economic feasibility of applying air-source heat pump (ASHP) technology to single-detached homes in Canada through combination with traditional furnaces in a hybrid space heating system. Support vector machines were used to develop a series of regression models capable of estimating exposed surface areas of homes in five Canadian cities: Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Edmonton, and Yellowknife. Heating load analysis was then conducted on all of the homes with the help of the predicted areas. An initial technical evaluation involved a comparison of the heat loss rate with the heat supply rate of market-available ASHPs. The bin method was used to assess the energy consumption, seasonal operating cost, and greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions on an annual basis for furnace-alone and furnace/ASHP hybrid systems. Results show that cities such as Vancouver and Toronto can achieve economic and low GHG emission benefits from utilizing ASHP technology due to their relatively warm climates and good renewable electricity generation mixes. Meanwhile, Edmonton and Yellowknife would struggle to see any substantial benefits in residential heating operational changes due to their harsh climates and lacking renewable energy infrastructures. Regardless, the technology shows signs for potential future success if these locations implement shifts towards renewable electricity generation. The second project aimed to perform a similar analysis for an indoor farming facility in a northern climate. The study presented a framework for designing a retrofitted hydroponics facility intended to improve access to fresh and cost-effective food in northern Canadian rural communities. The framework outlined the key design features required for the indoor environment, such as temperature, humidity, airborne carbon dioxide, and how to size and select energy conversion devices to meet those demands. The use of a renewable energy-assisted heating system was proposed, and a genetic algorithm multi-objective optimization was used to determine the most cost-effective and least greenhouse gas (GHG) emitting control strategy for the system. As a result, the annual performance of the facility could be evaluated in comparison to the traditional food supply chain through life cycle cost and food-miles assessments. The proposed design protocol was showcased on a case study building in northern Alberta, Canada. The building was a light industrial fish plant that was proposed for retrofit and conversion to a farming facility, using a commercial hydroponics package, for the local community in Fort Chipewyan, Alberta. The hybrid renewable energy system consisted of a biomass cordwood boiler, a ground-source heat pump (GSHP), an onsite solar photovoltaic (PV) array, a gas furnace and water heater, and electric humidity control equipment. Overall, the facility showed cost savings as compared with produce found in the local grocers. However, GHG emissions from local production seemed to exceed those from conventional transport from southern California. The most limiting factor of the facility was found to be the considerable reliance on local diesel generated electricity, even with a tremendous benefit from the onsite solar PV. Once again, this study proved that hybrid space heating systems utilizing renewable technologies; mainly heat pumps, have the capability to provide noticeable benefit to modern built environments, but continue to be limited by the traditional infrastructures of today’s communities.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2021
  • Type of Item
    Thesis
  • Degree
    Master of Science
  • DOI
    https://doi.org/10.7939/r3-qxwh-ya24
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.