NREL’s Energy Systems Integration Facility Earns LEED Platinum

by | Nov 7, 2013

Energy Manage NRELThe Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) on the campus of the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colo., has earned a LEED Platinum designation for new construction from the US Green Building Council.

The 182,500-sq-foot ESIF facility is the nation’s first to help both public and private sector researchers scale up clean energy technologies and test how they interact with each other and the grid at utility scale. ESIF houses more than 15 experimental laboratories and several outdoor test beds, including an interactive hardware-in-the-loop system that lets researchers and manufacturers demonstrate their products at full power and real grid load levels – up to 1 MW in scale.

The facility also features a high-performance computing (HPC) data center designed to be one of the most energy-efficient data centers in the world because of its innovative warm-water cooling system. It is expected to achieve an annualized average power usage effectiveness (PUE) rating of 1.06 or better. Typical data centers achieve a rating of 1.80. PUE is defined as the ratio of total power to run the data center facility (IT equipment, lighting, HVAC, uninterruptible power supply systems, etc.) to the total power drawn by all IT equipment.

NREL chose the warm-water cooling system for the HPC data center because water has about 1,000 times the cooling capacity of air, making it more energy efficient to pump in a cooling system versus the energy needed to run a fan to move cooling air, which is typical for data centers. The warm-water cooling systems distributes waste heat throughout ESIF, which helped earn energy efficiency points for the LEED rating.

NREL estimates that the energy efficient HPC data center will save about $1 million in annual operating costs compared to a traditional data center. The cost savings are due to a potential $800,000 electrical energy savings and $200,000 thermal energy savings from reuse of the waste heat to heat ESIF.

The design-build team of SmithGroupJJR and JE Dunn incorporated a range of sustainable design technologies throughout ESIF. Natural light enters deep into ESIF through 15-foot long skylights and large expanses of clerestory glazing, allowing electrical lights to be shut off between 10 am and 2 pm daily in the office and laboratory buildings. Operable windows enable natural cooling and ventilation throughout the building, and solar powered fans aid in extracting heat from offices.

The ESIF is the fifth facility at NREL to achieve a LEED Platinum designation.

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