On December 17, Taiwan’s ITRI (Industrial Technology Research Institute) unveiled the SPIN Lab, an R&D platform for building-use green energy, the first of its kind in Taiwan and the third in the world. As part of the unveiling, ITRI also showcased its “energy conservation demonstration house” (henceforth “the house”), taking participants on a trip through Tainan’s green building energy research.
IEA research indicates that buildings are responsible for over a quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas and 55% of the global electricity consumption. Reducing building energy consumption therefore makes sense as a means to reduce both greenhouse gas and electricity consumption.
In particular, the SPIN Lab (Subtropical Performance Test Bed for Innovative eNergy Research in Building) is the third green building energy research platform after LBNL (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory) and SIT (Singapore Institute of Technology). True to its name, the SPIN Lab will assist by serving as a “subtropical performance test bed for innovative energy research in building(s)”.
The SPIN Lab is also literally called the “spin lab” in Chinese (with the equivalent translation in the Chinese language, of course). The platform houses a massive rotational structure underground, capable of rotating once per hour. It allows for the building to face various directions, thereby measuring the impact of facing the sun in different directions and whether these directions have an impact on the efficiency of various appliances, building materials, and other household products. The lab is equipped with validation capabilities, powered by myriad precision instruments and data collection systems, that simulate (as reflective of real-life conditions as possible), collect, and analyze information including body temperature, appliance power draw, outdoor weather conditions, and indoor conditions such as lighting, heat, energy, air quality, and vibration.
Mr. Cheng-Wei Yu, director general of the Bureau of Energy, indicates that, while the Bureau promoted the replacement and upgrade of high-consumption motors and air conditioning in 2017, it is now further investigating possible solutions to lower building energy consumption. Through various designs, building materials, and building methods, the Bureau hopes to continue iterating until a building solution with zero wasted energy can be achieved. The potential realization of this result in the future will serve as proof of marriage between energy theory and practice and the cornerstone of green energy laws and building laws.
Mr. Edwin Liu, president of ITRI, indicates that the LBNL is located in the San Francisco Bay area, which has a Mediterranean climate and is located about 37 degrees N, while the tropical SIT is located 1 degree N. On the other hand, Shalun, Tainan City, Taiwan is about 22-23 degrees N. As the three rotating facilities are located in drastically different climate zones, they can therefore carry out cross-climate energy conservative material and technology validation tests.
Not only is this (that is, the SPIN Lab) a validation platform, it will also bring about “various technological allocative and integrative tests”. Liu, again, has expressed a hope to transform Shalun into a designated area for the green energy industry and leverage Shalun’s environment to induce “cross-industrial applications” and “integrate” said applications, such that Taiwan’s green energy industry can become a sustainable one, while also letting the general public know of ITRI’s can-do attitude.
The aforementioned house is quite similar to a regular townhouse appearance-wise, but is in reality a smart energy conservation commercial opportunity potentially worth tens of billions of TWD, a joint effort between ITRI, TEPCO Power Grid, Tokyo Gas, Delta Electronics, and Formosa Plastics, among 12 companies domestic and foreign. Liu, once again, indicates that potential energy management applications will include distributed energy, allocative methods, ICT, and smart devices, all of which will be integrated and streamlined by various energy conservation technologies and building designs. Liu claims that ITRI will continue working to achieve this.
With the right appliances and optimized power management, the house is quite similar to a microgrid, which through PV panels, battery packs, power management systems, and smart monitoring can perform power management and energy conservation with the connected equipment, in order to let appliances communicate with one another. In hopes of maximizing the potential of green energy while minimizing equipment construction and integrating innovative technologies, ITRI senior research Minchi Liu indicates that the average Taiwanese household wastes about 65% energy, while the house wastes about 30%, which is about half the former.
In response to future demand for electrical allocation, the house can also double as Taiwan’s first test site for community-level smart distributed energy management system. In this regard, the house can help utility companies perform load testing first through energy conservation, load testing, and distributed energy. In terms of energy conservation, the house can simulate an entire community that is in the middle of dealing with the energy management center’s allocations, in order to rehearse load management required during peak electricity use hours.