The FREE research team has recently completed an investigation into the development of a energy efficiency opportunity estimation tool that can profile city-wide savings opportunities. A full report of the research effort, titled “Developing a Building-by-Building Estimate of City-wide Electricity Savings Potential: An Early Trial for the City of Wilmington, Delaware”, has been published on the Social Science Research Network (SSRN) and on our own FREE research page. The project, conducted jointly with the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy (CEEP), provides a methodological framework that can be directly relevant to the City of Wilmington and other cities in Delaware. Using high-resolution and comprehensive data, the research effort pursues a detailed inventory of the Wilmington building stock with which we estimate building-level electricity consumption and possible energy-saving opportunities.
We call it an ‘early trial’ to underscore that the model described and applied in this report is part of an ongoing development process. In future research rounds, the methodological framework will be refined in order to have practical value to urban planning. The results illustrated in this report should, therefore, be seen as an assessment of the overall value the methodological framework brings to the table and not firm estimates to be used in planning.
Why is this Research Important?
Currently, methods to estimate building energy savings potential for a city relies on technology potential for ‘typical buildings’. As discussed below, our team is investigating a method that uses all buildings in a city and is sensitive to the range of differences in building stocks from one city to the next. The promise of this approach is that it can offer estimates derived from actual city building inventories, not ‘typical’ building stocks. The accuracy of estimates produced by this method should be greater and more useful to cities.
How does the Tool Work?
To assess city-wide energy savings opportunities, it is first critical to get an accurate understanding of the city’s building stock. For this purpose, the FREE & CEEP research team developed an inventory of all buildings in the City of Wilmington, Delaware. This inventory documents the proportions of every building as well as useful descriptors (such as age of the building). A major part of the assessment was to use Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) data to build a 3D model of the city in order to build an accurate depiction of the city’s building stock. LIDAR data, in the form of a 3D ‘point cloud’ (see image below), provides highly accurate measurements of each building in the city at the time the LIDAR data was collected.
Figure 1. Example representation of 3D point cloud for downtown Wilmington, Delaware.
What will FREE to Develop the Model Further?
Many additional configuration options are available to increase the accuracy and usefulness of the model. The FREE research team continues to develop the model so that it can one day be directly useful to cities and towns across the United States and internationally. Be on the look-out for more FREE publications on this tool in the near future!