Climate-Friendly Air Conditioning for a Warming Planet
Blue Frontier is a clean technology startup founded by a team of seasoned industry veterans to commercialize the innovative integration of a revolutionary R&D 100 award-winning air conditioning technology with novel energy storage. The Company’s climate-friendly solutions reduce building energy consumption, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, permanently eliminate building summer peak electrical demand and efficiently store and use intermittent renewable energy; enabling the cost-effective carbon-free grid and zero-net-energy buildings.
Blue Frontier – A Different Approach
The key to improving comfort cooling is independent control of humidity and temperature. Unfortunately, the ubiquitous global unitary air conditioning market is based on a 100-year-old vapor compression cycle that was primarily designed to remove heat. Humidity control is a byproduct of producing cold air to create condensation runoff on the evaporator coil. Uncomfortably cold, 100% relative humidity air is blown into the building and mixes until the temperature set point is satisfied, typically 74 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Problem: Thanks to insulation, cool roofs, LED lighting, low power computers, high efficiency windows, and fresh make-up air, today’s energy efficient building designs have greatly lowered the ratio of heat when compared to humidity (aka sensible heat ratio). The A/C unit blasts cold air into the building and quickly removes the heat, satisfying the thermostat. The result is rapid on/off cycling which is inefficient, costly, uncomfortable, and leads to sweaty, smelly conditions.
The Solution: Blue Frontier’s adaptive/intelligent controls and design provide independent control of humidity (latent) and temperature (sensible) cooling, while providing at least 30% fresh air; the most important comfort and heath feature for today’s highly energy efficient buildings.
Blue Frontier is commercializing the R&D 100 Award winning DEVAP platform cooling comfort technology developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado. A drop-in, like-for-like replacement for the global unitary air conditioning market ranging from 1 – 50 Tons. The novel compressorless A/C technology is designed to operate in all global climate conditions and extreme environments ranging from hot/humid to hot/dry.
Blue Frontier’s breakthrough air conditioning technology is being designed as a direct replacement for the global unitary air conditioning market ranging from 1 – 50 Tons of cooling capacity. The novel design has a lower first cost, saves energy and peak demand, eliminates the use of greenhouse gas intensive refrigerants and increases human comfort and productivity.
- Superior comfort
- Reduces energy usage (kWh) by > 60%
- Reduces coincident peak demand (kW) by > 90%
- Eliminates the use of high global warming potential refrigerants
- Integral low-cost, non-volatile energy storage
- Designed for use with building integrated SolarPV
- Zero Net Energy Building Technology
Hyper Energy Efficiency: Because it cools in order to dehumidify, there are inherent energy efficiency limitations to all vapor compression air conditioning units. Blue Frontier’s revolutionary and patented two-step cooling process bypasses this limitation and is inherently 30% more energy efficient than the best theoretical vapor compression design. Real world conditions exacerbate this difference. Today, the best packaged rooftop unit designs consume about 1 kW-hour / Ton-hour of cooling. Blue Frontier’s air conditioner uses only 380 watt-hours / Ton-hour of cooling, or roughly 32 EER (a 62% reduction).
Designed for use with Solar PV
Blue Frontier’s unique and patented approach to comfort cooling eliminates the energy intensive scroll compressor, associated environmentally-harmful refrigerants, oils, condensing coil and evaporator coil. The solution is a patented combination of membrane-based isothermal evaporative desiccant cooling, dew-point indirect evaporative cooling, lithium chloride energy storage, and a novel high-COP air source heat pump. The relatively small, high-COP air source heat pump is used to transform and store intermittent SolarPV electricity in the form of highly concentrated energy storage to provide latent cooling. Blue Frontier’s superior two-step cooling process uses a microporous membrane to draw humidity in the form of water vapor from the air. The resulting dry air stream is then indirectly cooled to deliver premium humidity and temperature controlled comfort cooling.
Energy storage is the key component to using Solar PV to drive air conditioning after sunset. As a point of reference, each Blue Frontier 5-Ton unit includes about 50 kWh (8 hours) of low cost, non-toxic, non-volatile thermochemical (lithium chloride) energy storage, which carries the energy intensive cooling load well into the evening and during periods of diminished sun-powered energy. Importantly the technology mitigates the “duck-curve” or timing imbalance between peak demand and renewable energy production by storing excess evening and morning renewable energy then efficiently and effectively delivering building comfort cooling (the source of the peak demand problem) throughout the afternoon and evening hours (energy efficiency, peak demand reduction, energy storage, load leveling, load shifting).
Peak Demand Charges: Your electric utility bill likely includes coincident peak demand charges in $/kW. For the vast majority of buildings, peak demand is set by your air conditioner. By eliminating the inductive motor-driven scroll compressor, Blue Frontier eliminates >90% of the coincident peak demand when compared to today’s air conditioning units.
Full scale lab testing validates exceptional performance
In 2016, the founders of Blue Frontier built a full-scale 5-Ton packaged rooftop unit for lab testing. The unit was independently tested by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement. The testing was successful and data was used to validate theoretical performance model files.
Link to report: CRADA/NFE-16-016126
Link to DOE Project: Small Business Voucher
Project Manager: Moonis R Ally
Proof-of-Concept Shows Potential for Every Climate
In 2008, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) constructed a proof-of-concept prototype and showed that NREL’s DEVAP air conditioning cycle worked as expected and could be built using inexpensive materials. Considered “the Oscars of Innovation,” the R&D 100 Awards have been presented each year since 1963. In 2012 NREL engineers Jason Woods and Eric Kozubal were honored for their breakthrough air conditioning and design and patents.
Link to DEVAP Technical Report: DEVAP REPORT
Link to R&D 100’s Award: NREL DEVAP AWARD
ABOUT blue frontier
Blue Frontier — Doing well while doing something good for both mankind and the environment.
In May of 2018 the International Energy Agency issued its report entitled The Future of Cooling, Opportunities for energy-efficient air conditioning. “The International Energy Agency (IEA) is shining a spotlight on some of the blind spots of energy policy – issues that get little attention but are of crucial importance. The growth in global demand for space cooling is such a blind spot: it is one of the most critical yet often overlooked energy issues of our time. If left unchecked, energy demand from air conditioners will more than triple by 2050, equal to China’s electricity demand.”
Blue Frontier’s exclusively licensed technology that was developed and patented by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory is recognized as a top contender for the most energy and greenhouse gas savings among all recognized solutions listed on the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Building Technologies Office roadmap for non-vapor compression HVAC technologies. In this report Blue Frontier’s technology is referred to as Evaporative Liquid Desiccant A/C. The report estimates the technical energy savings potential is 2.6 Quads/year.
Our world class team is comprised of seasoned industry professionals having founded 6 relevant industry start-ups.
We have forged partnerships with two Federal National Labs, universities and several industry heavyweights.
Our commercial launch is planned for the spring of 2020.