The University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research recently constructed a new 43,000 square foot high-performance laboratory building that will allow expansion of the center's renewable and energy storage research. This research is devoted to Kentucky's growing renewable energy industries, including biomass and biofuels, electrochemical power sources (like capacitors and batteries), and distributed solar energy technologies.
The laboratory building design target was a 50 percent reduction in energy usage compared to similar facilities. The final percentage is 54 percent. It is targeted to be LEED gold certified.
The energy reduction is accomplished by energy-saving features throughout the building, including an exterior and roof with twice the amount of insulation normally used. Office windows receive southern-directional light and contain a nanogel material that diffuses sunlight and provides the same insulation as brick walls. Among other features are geothermal heating and cooling, occupancy sensors that turn off lights automatically when a space isn't being used, and a ventilation system that recaptures energy.
The facility was funded by a competitive grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act's (ARRA) NIST Construction Grant Program. The award consisted of $11.8 million in federal funds, with matching resources of $3.5 million provided by the Commonwealth of Kentucky and $1.9 million from UK. An additional award of $3.5 million in state ARRA funds was provided by the Department of Energy to achieve LEED certification and insure that this new laboratory is a model for energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies.
A Look Inside the Building
This funding has enabled UK to develop unique labs including a dry room designed for battery manufacturing and testing, an open-access biofuels research lab, and state-of-the-art solar research facilities. The entire second floor is devoted to research performed by UK Department of Chemistry Professor John Anthony's group, whose work includes organic thin-film transistors (for flexible flat-panel displays), organic solar cells (for low-cost electricity generation) and organic light-emitting diodes (for high-efficiency lighting).
The building envelope includes as many windows as possible to light the building with natural light. Nanogel (frosted) glass on the windows insulates as well as a brick wall. The laboratories throughout the facility were designed with many windows to allow our researchers the ability to see into the labs from the hallways, to allow more natural light, as well as to allow us the capability of conducting tours of the facility without impacting the on-going research. The labs were designed with zoned lighting, allowing researchers to turn off lights in areas of the labs that are not being used.
- First Floor: Biofuels and Environmental Catalysis Research Group focus is two-fold: to reduce the environmental impacts of fuel use and to develop renewable fuel sources (biomass and biofuels). Also includes the UK Renewables Fuels Lab.
- First Floor: Electrochemical Power Sources Research Group provides implementation of innovative energy-storage devices into a practical future use; emphasis is on renewable energy and the promise it holds - like capacitors and batteries.
- Second Floor: The entire second floor is devoted to State-of-the-art Solar Research performed by UK Department of Chemistry Professor John Anthony's Research Group, whose work includes organic thin-film transistors (for flexible flat-panel displays), organic solar cells (for low-cost electricity generation) and organic light-emitting diodes (for high-efficiency lighting)., and distributed solar energy technologies.
In addition to housing non-fossil fuel research, the building is home to the Kentucky-Argonne Battery Manufacturing Research & Development Center laboratories, jointly affiliated with the Commonwealth of Kentucky, the Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago, the University of Kentucky, and the University of Louisville. This is a shared-use facility, with portions of the laboratory purposely designed and specially equipped to accommodate capacitor and battery manufacturing research and development. For example, CAER Lab #2 houses a 2,000 square foot dry lab, which remains at a relative humidity of 0.5%.
The inside view of the lobby and second floor fan:
The fan in the lobby is the 10 foot Isis model from Big Ass Fans. The lobby was designed as an open area for gathering froups to introduce the building and research before embarking on tours of the facility.
Another view of the lobby features six touch screens. The Energy Efficiency Education Dashboard (EEED) system demonostrates the green features of the facility, the LEED Checklist and a graphical representation of the electrical, water, chilled water, geothermal, system efficiencies and renewable energy systems for the facility. The EEED provides instantaneous comparisons between electricity consumption for the research groups housed there. It also demonstrates a comparison between electrical consumption for the 1970's-era original CAER Building #1 and CAER Building #2.
Other green features include:
Three energy recovery wheels recapture energy contained in hood exhaust and supply air. It is estimated that the amount in one year of energy savings will pay back the initial installation and purchase costs. This type of technology is not very well incorporated into most current university settings because there is a potential problem of cross-contamination between labs. Therefore, an Airtuity System was installed to make sure that staff safety is ensured. This system continually pulls samples from all the labs. If it senses any problems with the rangle of any of the air samples, it will vent the air from the lab immediately.
Two roof-top solar panels heat water that is used for all the domestic water in the building. A process cooling loop was incorporated into the facility, off of the geothermal system, to reduce once pass through water when used for cooling laboratory equipment.
In the near future, 4 micro-wind turbines, that are omni-directional, will be placed on the roof in order to generated additional electricity for the building.
To schedule a tour of the facility or for other questions, please contact Marybeth McAlister, UK CAER Communications Manager.
UK CAER Lab #2 News Stories:
- UK NOW
- Lexington Herald-Leader
- The Lane Report
- Business First
- Today's Energy Solutions
- UK Alumna Impacting Energy Research Through Construction Management
- Printable CAER Lab #2 Building Factsheet - PDF
University of Kentucky
Center for Applied Energy Research
CAER Lab #2
2582 Research Park Drive (3rd bldg on right)
Lexington, KY, 40511 USA