Biofuels, batteries, solar energy – all are topics under investigation at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). But which areas of cleantech research hold the most environmental and economic promise? New, in-depth analysis at the lab seeks to determine which technologies are the most beneficial to pursue, while also offering researchers an opportunity to tweak their research before it hits the marketplace, with an eye towards maximizing its environmental and economic benefits.
The analysis is being conducted by a group dubbed Carbon Cycle 2.0 Energy and Environmental Analysis Team (E2AT). It’s been examining the impact these Berkeley Lab technologies (which have not yet hit the marketplace) could have on mitigating climate change, reducing dependence on fossil fuels and creating jobs. The team’s analysis will produce information of interest to scientists, funding agencies and policymakers alike – such as whether a given technology will reduce energy or water use, whether it will do so cost-effectively, and how that cost-effectiveness varies across different climates and geographies, along with other factors.
One of the technologies now undergoing scrutiny by E2AT is energy-efficient windows, also known as “smart windows.” Electrochromic window coatings can adjust to allow or block varying amounts of infrared radiation, while allowing daylight to pass through – blocking solar heat gain during the hot months, for example, and allowing it through during the winter, when extra heat is welcome. The team is looking at the potential energy savings of this and other window coatings in different regions across the country; results are helping to define performance targets that would help to make the coatings successful in the marketplace.
Other pilot projects under consideration by the team are Berkeley Lab technologies focused on carbon sequestration and biofuels.
“It’s a fairly new approach for the lab, to use the analytic lenses we’ve developed to analyze the costs, and energy, water, materials and climate change impacts of technologies that are still in the research and development phases,” Eric Masanet of the Lab’s Environmental Energy Technologies Division, who leads E2AT, said in a statement. Masanet said the ultimate goal is to provide guidance to scientists, funding agencies and policymakers about which directions in cleantech research are the most beneficial to pursue.