SBIR Phase I: Powerhouse: An Integrated End-Use Tied Solar Thermal and Power System

Period of Performance: 07/01/2016 - 06/30/2017


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

524 W. Third Street Unit 5
Lexington, KY 40508
Firm POC, Principal Investigator


This Small Business Innovation Research Phase I project aims to test the feasibility of a residential-scale, integrated mechanical system that supplies all energy needs of a low energy home, including heating, cooling, hot water, and power with 100% site-generated, renewable energy. If proven feasible, the system is expected to be cost-competitive with common existing HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning) systems on an installed cost basis. Phase I of this project will focus on the supply of thermal end uses including cooking, domestic hot water, and space heating through a combination of solar energy and thermal storage. The broader impact of this Phase I research is to make carbon-neutral living a practical, affordable, and widely available option. The technology has the potential to leverage deep penetration of renewable energy into the nation's electric power system, reduce carbon emissions of the power sector, and support cost-effective, risk-aware infrastructure investments by electric utilities in the long term. In addition, the commercialization of the proposed integrated mechanical system could expand the number of sites deemed to be appropriate for renewable energy, improve access to affordable housing in general, and create job opportunities in green construction. This project will test the feasibility of an integrated mechanical and power system to achieve a zero carbon home at zero incremental cost. Two components have been identified as being critical to the system-level cost efficiencies of the proposed system and will be investigated in Phase I: (1) a novel, convenient, indoor solar cooker and (2) a low-cost, roof-integrated, solar thermal collector with high-efficiency operation in space heating mode. The research targets include demonstration of a new means of cooking using stored thermal energy; construction of a solar thermal collector prototype suitable for cold climates that costs less than half that of glazed flat plate collectors, and development of control logic for thermal and electrical loads to meet power access and comfort expectations of the U.S. market. The project will test the cooking quality and cooking times of a new solar cooking method and build a first prototype cooker; prototype and measure the efficiency of the new solar thermal collector; develop a dynamic simulation of the system as part of an ultra-low energy home to test scheduling of load controls; and project the economics of the proposed system.