Touring state-of-the-art HVAC manufacturing facilities, such as Nortek Air Solutions’ new multi-million dollar Nortek Oklahoma Coil Plant on Feb. 5, 2019, is just one facet of 2018-2019 ASHRAE President Sheila Hayter’s campaign that is preparing building professionals for tomorrow’s electric grid and energy efficiency challenges.
The U.S. electric grid infrastructure is more than 100 years old, and its strained capacity will fall short of tomorrow’s anticipated energy needs, according to Hayter. Therefore, ASHRAE is petitioning manufacturers, engineers and other HVAC industry members to design more sustainable equipment and buildings that will put less load on the nation’s electric infrastructure. This will help transform the current one-way passive electric grid into a more active infrastructure that integrates Internet of Things (IoT), alternative energy and other technologies resulting in a goal of net-zero and grid-interactive buildings.
Hayter provided a synopsis of the aspiration’s progress to more than 500 ASHRAE members attending the annual President’s Luncheon at the 2019 ASHRAE Winter Conference and AHR Expo last January. She outlined the association’s “Building Our New Energy Future; What Buildings Professionals Need to Know About Changes Coming to our Energy Sector” campaign.
Hayter, Nortek CEO Bruno Biasiotta and local engineering students and professors toured the 80,000-square-foot plant that opened last summer. The facility demonstrates the St. Louis-based NAS’ commitment to modernizing both manufacturing processes and the end-product copper coils used in its commercial HVAC products. ASHRAE hopes to educate building professionals and their clients on distributed energy resources, because DSRs represent critical technologies and strategies through which buildings evolve from passive consumers to active partners with the grid, according to Hayter.
“I was impressed Nortek recognizes the industry’s coming changes and is offering itself as a resource, while also providing knowledge and leadership to the building industry as it looks forward to discover new solutions for energy use,” said Hayter, who is also a senior research advisor at the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
Connecting with ASHRAE chapters, such as inviting ASHRAE’s Central Oklahoma Chapter–Region VIII on the plant tour, is another facet of bringing the association’s campaign to the grassroots level, according to Hayter. She visited five international and 13 North American chapters during her first year as president in 2018.
Jeff Forman, president of the Central Oklahoma Chapter and partner of manufacturer’s representative, Mechanical Sales Midwest, Oklahoma City, helped organize the tour. The tour was also attended by chapter members, a dozen engineering students and three professors: Jie Cai, Ph.D., assistant professor, School of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, University of Oklahoma; and Christian K. Back, Ph.D., and Craig R. Bradshaw, Ph.D., both assistant professors, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Oklahoma State University. Nortek’s annual Golden Circle ASHRAE donations to the Central Oklahoma Chapter’s local colleges, as well as four other North American chapters operating near its factories, helps fund HVAC research that might lead to a more efficient electric grid someday.
“Buildings, vehicles, IoT and alternative energy sources are converging to define a new energy future,” said Biasiotta. “Working with ASHRAE, Nortek is invested in being a part of the solution in creating well buildings with net zero impact.”