Reducing energy consumption has enormous societal benefits, ranging from cleaner air and water to lower costs to less dependence on conventional forms of energy supply. Many states are now mandating energy reduction targets. The Commonwealth of Virginia's recently released Virginia Energy Plan sets a reduction target of a 10% reduction of energy consumption by 2022.
At the core of our research at U.Va.'s Engineering School and the School of Architecture is the guiding assumption that the world that we build and the natural environment we live in are intertwined and that the conservation of nature is fundamentally tied to the conservation of human cultures. It is imperative to discover new and innovative technologies and methods that provide a clear and compelling incentive for energy consumption reduction.
U.Va. faculty members are involved in numerous areas of energy reduction research which includes:
Students and faculty have demonstrated that sustainable, environmentally-friendly housing can be attractive and affordable. The ecoMOD project is a collaborative effort between the School of Engineering and Applied Science and the School of Architecture that explores innovative methods in the design, construction and operation of housing for low income communities. In December, 2007, Virginia Governor Tim Kaine participated in ribbon cutting ceremonies for the third in a series of prototype houses.
Professor Paxton Marshall
Professor John Quale
Energy Conservation for Comfortable Buildings
Forty percent of U.S energy consumption is used in buildings, 22% in residential buildings and 18% in commercial buildings [DOE]. Non-industrial energy use in buildings accounts for 65% of U.S. electricity consumption [U.S. Green Building Council]. Sixty percent of U.S. electricity is made from coal, and electricity generation is the largest emitter of greenhouse gasses.
Continued advances in embedded computing, sensor technology, and communications provide new opportunities for building energy conservation through automation and timely feedback to occupants. The majority of energy used in buildings is consumed in space heating, cooling, and ventilation. A large amount of energy is wasted on these activities when spaces are unoccupied. This research focuses on the application of intelligent controls to energy conservation in commercial buildings.
Professor Ron Williams
Research in power-aware design at U.Va.'s Engineering School takes place on several levels that can lead to lower energy consumption in the computer industry. At the high performance end of the design space, on-chip thermal management circuits coupled with thermal models of chip operation allow systems to manage their own heat dissipation. This type of design relaxes constraints on the costly cooling requirements for high end processors while improving reliability and reducing the impact of digital technology on the environment. In data centers, storage systems account for a significant fraction of the energy consumption. Our research focuses on developing energy-efficient storage systems through a combination of novel disk drive designs and storage-centric architectures that optimize the movement of data between the storage system and the compute nodes. At the portable end of the design space, a number of projects focus on low power portable applications using novel circuit design methods to lower energy consumption.
Assistant Professor Sudhanva Gurumurthi
Transportation and Energy Consumption
Alternative Agriculture and Alternative Energy
Recent attention to alternative agriculture in the United States might also become attentive to alternative energy. Research into agricultural production, distribution, and consumption patterns can reduce energy needs, help promote more viable local food networks, and avoid the energy-intensive pitfalls of the industrial agricultural system. In particular, how might local foodsheds be designed and built to reduce energy inputs (fertilizers on the farm; fossil fuel used to transport food from farm to town; energy required to ship and store foods; consumer energy use patterns when buying food; etc)? One current project seeks to address that question by studying the amount of energy required for food and agricultural infrastructure in the Charlottesville area. It maps energy flows into and out of the region as a way to help urban planners, local food advocates, and engineers redesign foodsheds that require less energy. The benefits of the research extend beyond technical criteria of energy use to include community stability, food security, healthy and affordable food options, and more, thus making this energy research part of a community-based study in engineering design.
Assistant Professor Benjamin Cohen
Electric Vehicle Research Program
Converting our nation’s vehicles from petroleum to electricity would dramatically reduce street level vehicle emissions and our dependence on foreign oil. If the electricity is produced by photovoltaics, vehicular greenhouse gas emissions can be eliminated. Recent technological developments have moved electric vehicles powered by remotely-mounted photovoltaic panels to the edge of economic viability. The primary goal of this initiative is to identify and eliminate the impediments to rapid commercialization of photovoltaic-powered electric vehicles in the US.
The project’s initial goal is the conversion of a conventional, late-model automobile to electric drive, and to charge this vehicle with a remotely-mounted photovoltaic array. This project will unfold into a multidisciplinary, externally-funded research effort where study will be targeted at the key areas which are keeping electric vehicles from wide-scale use. As new technology is developed, it will be included and tested in the latest generation of electric vehicle being built in our research effort.
Adjunct Professor James Durand