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ORNL integrated energy demo connects 3D printed building, vehicle

24 September 2015

A research demonstration combines clean energy technologies into a 3D printed building and vehicle to showcase a new approach to energy use, storage and consumption.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Additive Manufacturing Integrated Energy (AMIE) demonstration connects a 3D printed building and vehicle to showcase a new approach to energy use, storage and consumption (photo: ORNL)

The Additive Manufacturing Integrated Energy (AMIE) demonstration, displayed at the US department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Industry Day event, is a model for energy-efficient systems that link buildings, vehicles and the grid.

An Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) team worked with industrial partners to manufacture and connect a natural-gas-powered hybrid electric vehicle with a solar-powered building to create an integrated energy system.

Power can flow in either direction between the vehicle and building through a lab-developed wireless technology. The approach allows the car to provide supplemental power to the 210-square-foot house when the sun is not shining. The video here shows an an animation of the energy flow.

The demonstration also showcases additive manufacturing's rapid prototyping potential in architecture and vehicle design; the car and house both were built using large-scale 3D printers.

Connecting the house to the 3D printed vehicle demonstrates the concept of integrating two energy streams, buildings and transportation, which typically operate independently.

"Working together, we designed a building that innovates construction and building practices and a vehicle with a long enough range to serve as a primary power source," says ORNL's Roderick Jackson, who led the AMIE demonstration project. "Our integrated system allows you to get multiple uses out your vehicle."

Advanced building controls and power management maximize the efficiency of the system's components. The project's energy control centre manages the system's electrical demand and load by balancing the intermittent power from the building's 3.2kW solar array with supplemental power from the vehicle.

ORNL researchers hope their integrated approach to energy generation, storage and consumption will introduce solutions for the modern electric grid, which faces challenges ranging from extreme weather events to how best to incorporate growing renewable energy use, particularly as the transportation sector transitions away from fossil fuels.

"We're looking at large community issues from the single-unit level," says ORNL's Martin Keller. "Our research provides solutions on a small scale, which will translate to a significant reduction in energy use and an increase in cost savings when ramped up to a national, and even global, level."

The building was designed by architecture firm Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill through the University of Tennessee-ORNL Governor's Chair for Energy and Urbanism. It was assembled by Clayton Homes, the USA's largest builder of manufactured housing. 

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