The NYC 2030 District Advanced RTU Webinar

Rooftop units (RTUs) are used in over 60% of all commercial building floor space to optimize cooling, heating, and ventilation and found on most NYC low-rise buildings like, schools, stores, hospitals and restaurants.
RTUs are capable of handling anywhere from 1.5 tons to 162 tons in the volume of supply air. Thus, even a small improvement in rated efficiency of these units can lead to significant reductions of energy use and carbon emissions.
On July 10th, 2018, The Department of Energy’s Advanced RTU Campaign and PaceControls presented on the trends and drivers of RTU efficiency for commercial buildings in New York City. We discovered what are the latest resources, tools and technologies in replacing or retrofitting RTUs, plus making a compelling business case with the robust RTU incentives from Con Edison.

You can also download the presentation HERE


New Efficient Energy Storage System Extracts Energy from Thin Air

May 3, 2016 – The gap between electricity generation and use could be narrowed with an Oak Ridge National Laboratory system that extracts energy from thin air. Actually, Ground-Level Integrated Diverse Energy Storage, or GLIDES, stores electricity mechanically in the form of compressed gas that displaces water in high-pressure vessels described by co-inventor Wale Odukomaiya as the heart of the system.


The GLIDES approach has the potential to change the way energy is stored.

He noted that GLIDES overcomes the site limitations of pumped storage hydroelectricity and compressed air energy, and the higher cost of batteries. Compared to these conventional energy storage systems, GLIDES also features near constant-temperature processes, higher efficiency and more flexible scalability. In addition, the system uses the world’s smallest Pelton turbine, which extracts energy from the impulse of moving water, manufactured at ORNL’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility.


To arrange for an interview with a researcher, please contact the Communications staff member identified at the end of each tip. For more information on ORNL and its research and development activities, please refer to one of our media contacts. If you have a general media-related question or comment, you can send it to


Via RMI Outlet

Report Release: The Economics of Battery Energy Storage

2015 has been the ‘Year of The Battery,’ but it’s time to focus less on cost and more on the value


In many ways, 2015 has been “The year of the battery.” Consider the excitement around Tesla’s Powerwall, or battery energy storage’s 600 percent Q2 growth over Q1, or one of the world’s largest utilities recently proclaiming that batteries will obviate the need for any new gas peaker plants in the U.S. post-2020. But the most important and exciting news around batteries still lies ahead.

To date, the attention has been on cost—how cheap batteries have gotten, and how fast they’ve done so. Now, a new RMI report shifts the focus critically to the other part of the battery equation: value. The report found that batteries can reduce grid costs and customer bills, increase the resilience of the grid, and support a largely renewable electricity system. All that value is available, if we make some critical adjustments.

Batteries are usually deployed today for single, primary uses: think demand charge reduction in California or frequency regulation on PJM’s wholesale electricity market. These single use cases are usually compared against the relative cost of a battery. This sells batteries short: comparing one use case against the cost of a battery is like comparing the cost of a Swiss Army knife to the value you can get from just using the blade. A battery is capable of delivering many services with the same device, just like a Swiss Army knife. But right now folks are buying the knife and only using the blade when they could also be using the pliers, screwdriver, and so on.

So far, batteries deployed to reduce demand charges or defer traditional utility investments aren’t typically used to deliver multiple services. This means batteries might only be used for 1–50 percent of their useful life. And yet, a battery could be used to deliver other services for the other 50–99 percent of its useful life and get paid to do so. Would you build a hotel and only sell 1–50 percent of the rooms? Neither would we. So why do it with batteries?

In our new report, The Economics of Battery Energy Storage, we asked some important fundamental questions:

  1. What services can batteries provide to the grid?
  2. Where on the grid can batteries deliver each service?
  3. How much value can batteries generate when they are highly utilized and services are stacked?
  4. What regulatory barriers currently prevent single energy storage systems or aggregated fleets of systems from providing multiple, stacked services to the grid?


Our research indicates that batteries, when placed behind the meters of residential, commercial, or industrial customers, can deliver 13 services to the electricity system at large. The figure summarizes these services and the stakeholder group that accumulates the lion’s share of each benefit (more detail on these services can be found in our full report).

Batteries deployed further downstream in the electricity system (behind the meter) can technically deliver the maximum number of services to the grid. But as you move upstream in the electricity system—towards large centralized power plants—energy storage loses the ability to deliver some of these services. For example, a battery connected at the distribution level can’t perform customer bill management, while a battery connected at the transmission level won’t be able to defer any distribution-level investments.


This finding, though important, doesn’t tell us how much net value batteries can deliver to the electricity system. To estimate this, we developed an energy storage dispatch model to understand the economics of energy storage in four potential real-world scenarios.

Our results were surprising. Batteries deployed behind the meter are “in the money” right now, under prevailing cost structures, without subsidy. This finding comes with two major caveats:

  1. Batteries must be well utilized and deliver multiple services to customers and the grid in order to be cost effective. The prevailing energy storage business model in the U.S., using a battery to reduce a commercial customer’s demand charge, delivers a single service to a single stakeholder and typically underutilizes the battery—sometimes dramatically so. Batteries deployed for demand charge reduction are only used for 5–50 percent of their useful life. That means those same batteries could be re-dispatched to deliver other services to other stakeholders, like utilities and independent system operators/regional transmission organizations, and get paid for them, dramatically changing the economics of energy storage.
  2. Our modeling results assume no regulatory barriers to aggregated, behind-the-meter market participation or revenue generation. As we’ll cover in a moment, a number of regulatory prohibitions currently prevent batteries deployed behind the meter from delivering and getting paid for these services. Our modeling results artificially remove these regulatory barriers in order to understand the economics of energy storage without regulatory restrictions.

Let’s use a case from the report to highlight our findings and the two caveats above. The figure shows how a battery deployed behind the meter for a hotel in San Francisco is used, and what value it generates. As you can see, when the battery is deployed for a single use (demand-charge reduction) it doesn’t pay off (the orange portion of the revenue stack is smaller than the black cost stack in the bar chart) but when additional services layer on top of demand charge reduction, the economics flip in favor of energy storage. The pie chart also illustrates how little of this battery’s lifetime capacity is needed for demand charge reduction: about 53 percent. That means it can be dispatched for the remaining 47 percent of its lifetime time to deliver other services (in this case, resource adequacy for the utility and a suite of wholesale electricity services).


Every one of the revenue-generating services in this example is being delivered by some behind-the-meter energy storage systems in operation today. But very few projects are simultaneously providing this full stack of services (or other combinations thereof) with a single device or fleet of devices.

This is because energy storage—and other distributed energy resources (DERs) like smart controls, energy efficiency, and rooftop solar PV—has matured faster than the rates, regulations, and utility business models needed to support them as core components of the future grid. To overcome these barriers and realize the full value of rapidly evolving battery technologies, we recommend the following changes:


  • Enact regulatory reform to unlock DERs and reduce the cost of the grid. Regulatory proceedings in New York (NY REV), California (IDSM, DRP, and NEM 2.0), Hawaii, Texas, and emerging efforts in other states have begun the long road towards open distribution system planning, utility business model reform, and ubiquitous advanced rate design. But no state or region in the U.S. should be left out of the cost and resiliency benefits that come from DERs, so more work is needed both inside and outside of these leading states.
  • Require that DERs be considered as alternative, potentially lower-cost solutions to problems typically addressed by traditional “wires” investments and/or centralized peaking generation investments.


  • Prior to considering new centralized assets, consider how storage could be leveraged across utility departments. Utilities have a number of tools at their disposal that could obviate the need for new power plants or distribution upgrades. Distribution planners, grid operators, and rate designers should work together to leverage the full capability of storage and other DERs to get multiple uses out of assets, whether singly or in fleets.


  • Pursue business models that fully utilize batteries
  • Pursue cost reduction efforts for all power-focused elements of energy storage systems (all $/KW components) in order to unlock more markets, faster.

Battery-based energy storage is a powerful resource capable of reducing grid costs and customer bills, increasing the resilience of the grid, and supporting a largely renewable electricity system. And even though the economics of storage look good today, they’re only going to get better as gigafactories other than Tesla’s come online across the globe and costs come down further. It’s time for utility business models to evolve and for regulations to change in order for the benefits offered by behind-the-meter, battery-based storage to be captured across the U.S.



EE Solutions Help Carnegie Hall Secure LEED Silver Certification

“My building is just too old, energy upgrades aren’t worth it for me” is no longer an excuse: Carnegie Hall has just secured LEED Silver certification. At almost 125 years of age, this New York icon is a shining example of how every building, new or old, can utilize energy efficiency technology.

In addition to the infrastructure improvements, building automation, low flow plumbing installs, security upgrades, and fire and life safety systems upgrades, the Hall has also tapped into some of its existing architecture for additional boosts. The rooftop now has reflective pavers and plantings, which reduce the building’s carbon footprint. Additionally, the 450 original upper floor windows have been utilized to maximize natural light, reducing the need for additional lighting.

Battery Storage for Your Building – The Revolution is Near

It seems there are three inevitable laws of nature: death, taxes, and power outages. The latter of those three may not belong next to the other two, but every person in the United States can think of a handful of times they were without power.

Blackouts and brownouts are becoming more commonplace in the United States. Power outages often result from too much stress on the grid, the failure of our plants and/or substations, or destructive forces of nature taking their toll. With these failures in mind, more battery storage solutions have been hitting the market, hoping to change the way we all view and use energy.


Battery storage is a technology that allows buildings to store energy during low demand hours, and then use that stored energy during peak demand hours. Battery technology has made incredible strides due to what is being called ‘The Battery Revolution’; a heavy investment in battery storage technology has led to solutions that cover all users. Everyone, from utilities to the individual home owner, has something to gain from battery storage.

With their large populations and ‘never asleep’ demands, cities are often viewed as the biggest energy drains to the grid. Demand Energy, an intelligent energy storage solutions provider, has been implementing a battery solution that ‘could change the way cities of the world consume power’. In the video below, ThinkProgress simply details how Demand Energy’s solution works and highlights a case study of a luxury residential building that is already using the battery solution.

Learn more by watching the ThinkProgress video below:

The Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) Primer

Variable refrigerant flow (VRF) systems, which were first introduced in Japan in 1982, have become popular in many countries; however, they are relatively unknown in the United States. VRF systems can condition multiple zones in a building, each of which may have different simultaneous heating and cooling needs. Using sophisticated control technologies, VRF systems can modulate the amount of refrigerant sent to each zone independently. This technology provides substantial energy savings by staying in tune with diverse and changing space conditioning loads.

To learn more about the many VRF benefits read our guide below:


Cypress Wireless Pneumatic Thermostat Overview

The worldwide, patent pending Wireless Pneumatic Thermostat (WPT) delivers DDC-like functionality at a fraction of the time and cost of existing legacy systems. The WPT is installed without the need to change out pneumatic pipes, run wires, replace actuators or disturb tenants. It is not necessary to upgrade entire building at one time; installers may selectively retrofit individual thermostats for incremental benefits.

Cypress Envirosystems (Cypress) delivers high-performance, mixed-signal, programmable solutions that provide customers with rapid time-to-market and exceptional system value. Cypress’ offerings include the PSoC® programmable system-on-chip, USB controllers and general-purpose programmable clocks and memories. Cypress also offers wired and wireless connectivity technologies ranging from its CyFi™ Low-Power RF solution, to West Bridge® and EZ-USB® FX2LP controllers that enhance connectivity and performance in multimedia handsets. Cypress serves numerous markets including consumer, computation, data communications, automotive and industrial.

Conventional retrofits of pneumatic controls to DDC typically cost over $2,500 per zone and causes significant disruption to building tenants. The long investment payback (usually four to seven years) and the need to wait for tenants to vacate mean that most legacy buildings never upgrade despite compelling energy and productivity savings.



The new Cypress WPT accomplishes the same retrofit in less than 20 minutes, for less than 20% of the cost of conventional DDC. This means that retrofits can be performed right away, even while a building is fully occupied, and achieve payback periods of about one year. These are key advantages for stimulus funding eligibility.

The WPT is directly compatible with the majority of legacy pneumatic thermostats from Honeywell, Johnson Controls, Robertshaw, and Siemens. It can seamlessly integrate with modern building automation systems from virtually all major vendors via BACnet/IP. Numerous 3rd party systems integrators have successfully implemented the BACnet link including Emcor, ACCO, Johnson Controls, Siemens, RSD-Total Control, Wolf Mechanical, Syserco and others.

In addition, the system has completed compatibility testing with utility Auto-Demand Response systems, developed by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories, and is being used by California utilities to shed electrical load during peak consumption periods.

According to Dan Ginn, General Manager of RSD-Total Controls, a distributor and installer for the WPT, “In today’s challenging business environment, this technology can be a savior to help us implement projects that are otherwise economically unfeasible.”

“The Wireless Pneumatic Thermostat will help unlock an enormous reservoir of potential energy savings from legacy facilities, including older federal buildings,” said Bien Irace, Senior Vice President of Business Development for Cypress Envirosystems.


  • Integrates into current BMS platforms with standard protocols
  • Installation time is minimal; Building shutdown not required
  • Makes utility programs such as DR more viable


  • Functionality is only as viable as the pneumatic system it is being connected with.

Triacta Power Multi-Circuit Electric Meter Reviews

Triacta Building

Triacta provides a line of multi-circuit meters that allow for metering in a high density location where multiple loads need to be monitored. Multi-circuit metering provides a smaller meter footprint, simpler install procedures and lower costs.

Across the line key functionality

  • Meter elements that can be configured for meters 1,2 (network) or 3-conductor circuits.
  • Fast installation for new construction or retrofits
  • Measures Wh delivered & received, VARh delivered & received, VAh, Vrms and Irms
  • Data logging: Non-volatile flash memory unaffected by power outages, stores up to 2.4 years of interval data
  • MODBUS® TCP and BACnet®/IP protocols for building automation integration
  • Built-in DHCP or static IP configuration
  • Uses high-speed internet, 100BASE-T Ethernet standard
  • Using advanced IP-based communications, PowerHawk meters transmit data over existing wireless, phone, or high-speed Internet connections without the cost of a dedicated service. There’s no need to purchase or maintain additional computers or meter reading equipment.
  • Triacta-hosted, cloud-based reporting and metermanagement software is include with all purchases
  • Supports summation metering by grouping CT’s by phase together
  • Realtime (instantaneous) data via BACNET or Modbus
  • Built using industry standard protocols and come complete with remotely upgradable firmware — making them a future-proof solution that will perform for years to come. Reliable, full-featured and fully networkable. They can be quickly installed for both new construction and retrofits.
Triacta Metering

Triacta meters transform properties into Intelligent Buildings — bridging the energy information gap by making data visible to all stakeholders. With Triacta meters in place, Energy management data that was once only available within facilities management is now also accessible by anyone with the need to know via Internet Protocol and IT systems

Revenue Grade Meters

Revenue Grade Meters

The PowerHawk 6000 series of smart meters and monitors combines revenue-grade electrical submetering with advanced communications technology — complying with all regulatory electric safety and communications requirements and meeting stringent ANSI 0.5 Accuracy Class standards. Plus it has been independently certified to ANSI 0.2 accuracy class standards when deployed with 80mA or 100mA CT’s.

PowerHawk 6X03 Multi-point Meter 

The PowerHawk® 6X03 is designed to meter or monitor branch offices, remote loads, and other low density applications. The 6X03 provides six meter elements that can be configured for 1, 2 (network) and 3-conductor circuits.

PowerHawk 6X12 High Density Meter

The PowerHawk® 6X12 is designed to meter or monitor multi-tenant office buildings, medium-sized retail, industrial, or institutional buildings, multi-tenant residential buildings, and other high density applications. The 6X12 provides twenty-four meter elements that can be configured for 1, 2 (network) and 3-conductor circuits.

PowerHawk 6X20 High Density Meter

The PowerHawk® 6320 is also designed to meter or monitor high density applications but with has more meter elements available for configuration. The 6320 provides fifty meter elements.

Energy Management Meters

Multi Circuit Meters

Triacta’s Energy Management Meters (PowerHawk® 4000 Series) are designed to meter or monitor remote loads, multi-tenant buildings, retail and institutional spaces, or any application that needs to integrate with building automation systems.

PowerHawk 4X06 Multi-point Meter

The PowerHawk® 4X06 is designed to meter or monitor branch offices, remote loads, and other low density applications that need to integrate with building automation systems. The 4X06 provides six meter elements that can be configured for 1, 2 (network) and 3-conductor circuits.

PowerHawk 4X24 High Density Meter

The PowerHawk® 4X24 is a high density energy management meter designed for multi-tenant buildings, medium-sized retail and institutional spaces, or any high density applications that need to integrate with building automation systems. The PowerHawk 4X24 meter provides twenty-four meter elements that can be configured for 1, 2 (network) and 3-conductor circuits.

Performance Summary


  • ANSI C12.20 Class 0.2 certified (6000 Series). Scheduled for NYPSC acceptance for tenant billing applications summer of 2015.This will be of great value for the property management in installation and operations.
  • Supports up to 24 single pole circuits 12 residential tenants or 8 3-phase loads
  • Lab certified for revenue grade.
  • BACnet certified which will allow for standard BMS integration
  • Remote / IP configurable which minimizes the need for revisits on support.
  • DHCP capable on a customer network
  • Remotely upgradeable firmware
  • Multiple selections in current measurement sensors. 80 and 100 ma, 5 amp and .333mv inputs.


  • 1 minute data must be supported with an external appliance. This would apply if being used in a Demand Response market.
  • May be buying more meters than needed for an application. Ex: If there are only 10 loads to monitor I would be buying meters but not CT’s that I would need for the job.
  • Requires PT with 480V Delta configuration (No neutral present)
  • Ordering can be confusing if the sites is not properly vetted and surveyed to make sure the correct package is ordered. Need to be aware of the primarily voltages supported and types of CT’s to use ( 5A, 80ma, 100ma or .333mv) Triacta will support the establishing of equipment needed based on single-line schematics and panels.
  • No basic THD measurements

New Water Heating Efficiency Standards Deliver Great Savings, But There’s More to Be Done

via New Water Heating Efficiency Standards Deliver Great Savings, But There’s More to Be Done | Robin Roy’s Blog | Switchboard, from NRDC.

For those of us working toward smarter, cleaner, cheaper water heating for households, there’s a lot happening in Washington, D.C. With about 15 percent of U.S. household energy use going to heat the water we use to wash dishes and take showers, even small improvements make a big difference.

First, new energy efficiency standards for water heaters issued by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) take effect Thursday (April 16). These standards were finalized in April 2010, giving the water heater industry time to plan and make necessary investments to manufacture the more efficient versions as of April 16. DOE estimates that these new standards will net consumers savings of up to $8.4 billion over the next 30 years. Total energy savings through 2045 are an estimated 2.6 quads, about as much energy as used by 15 million households annually. NRDC is a longstanding and strong supporter of federal energy efficiency standards, and had pushed for these standards to be adopted. It’s good to see them go into effect.

A key aspect of the new standards is that large electric water heaters (over 55 gallons) will use heat pump technology, which can cut energy use by more than 50 percent. That’s a huge improvement – these heaters will use less than half the energy of electric resistance water heaters. Boding well for the future of efficient, economic water heating, manufacturers have also introduced heat pump water heaters in the highly popular 50-gallon size. This is great news, and holds enormous promise for energy and consumer savings beyond what DOE estimated.

Second, with strong bipartisan support, the U.S. Senate recently passed S. 535 Energy Efficiency Improvement Act of 2015 introduced by Senators Portman (OH) and Shaheen (NH), including a provision to exempt “grid-enabled water heaters” from the federal energy efficiency standards for large water heaters. These are large electric resistance water heaters with communication and control capability that allow them to be used as low-cost thermal batteries in an energy storage or demand response program (demand response involves consumers temporarily changing their normal consumption in response to pricing or incentives at times of high wholesale electricity costs or reliability concerns). This can make the electricity system more flexible and ready to use renewable generation with variable output, like wind and solar. Smart grid-responsive water heaters present a promising possibility for a more efficient, more economic, and ultimately lower-emissions electricity system, even if they are less efficient individually. There’s much more to be learned about the possible role of smart water heaters and the trade-offs between system and component efficiency, and the legislation we support would foster much better understanding.

I had the pleasure of testifying in favor of water heater legislation a few weeks ago before the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Energy and Power. The House of Representatives passed legislation similar to S. 535 in 2014 with overwhelming bipartisan support. Hopefully, the House will once again pass legislation in the current Congress, and grid-enabled water heaters will have a clear path forward to the president’s desk. So the good news is we’re making progress, although there’s no date set yet for House action.

NRDC has only rarely supported exemptions from standards, but here we explored the opportunities that grid-enabled water heaters may offer for environmental and consumer benefit, found the case persuasive, and worked intensively with manufacturers, utilities, and other efficiency and environmental organizations to develop legislation that would deliver on the opportunity while not undermining the benefits of the new water heater efficiency standards. Importantly, the legislation is carefully designed to make sure that these water heaters are actually used in a demand response or energy storage program, and not a loophole to avoid the efficiency standards. Typically, legislation isn’t required to carve out a sensible exemption; DOE has the authority to adopt a waiver on its own. Here, however, DOE recently inexplicably decided to withdraw its own 2013 proposal for a waiver process for grid-enabled water heaters – an idea that manufacturers, utilities, and NRDC had all supported – making legislation necessary.

Looking ahead, we’ll continue to support the legislation on grid-enabled water heaters until it is enacted, and continue to promote smart, economic water heating of all types, including heat pump water heaters of all sizes.

And of course we’ll continue our longstanding work on great energy standards that deliver environmental and consumer benefits on a wide range of appliances.

Efficiency and Renewables on the Menu for McDonald’s

Not many people associate fast food with clean energy. But that’s exactly what one of the largest quick-service restaurants in the world is exploring. RMI recently completed a net-zero-energy study forMcDonald’s, which explores how to offset the energy consumption of an entire restaurant with renewable energy.

Working alongside the net-zero-energy visionaries at New Buildings Institute (NBI) and kitchen equipment experts at Fisher-Nickel, Inc., RMI looked critically at the technical and financial feasibility of achieving net-zero energy for a McDonald’s restaurant. The study builds on previous work performed by a group of Duke University graduate students (with support from RMI), in tandem with prior energy-efficiency studies and LEED designs developed by McDonald’s.

To achieve net-zero energy (NZE), a McDonald’s restaurant must offset its energy consumption with on-site renewable energy generation on an annual basis. Restaurants have a high energy density (a lot of energy used within a small physical footprint), which makes them challenging candidates for net-zero energy. High energy density requires a costly solar system, making energy efficiency critical to reaching net-zero energy on a standard site with reasonable first costs. The study reveals a number of energy-efficiency opportunities throughout the building, and more thoroughly examines kitchen equipment, which is the most significant building energy end-use in a McDonald’s restaurant.


So what is the minimum amount of energy required to cook a burger? A side of fries? What about the energy used to keep your drink cold? Based on the study, kitchen equipment represents the greatest opportunity for energy savings, as it can consume more than 50 percent of the energy in a new McDonald’s restaurant. By considering the minimum amount of energy required to cook each menu item and comparing this with actual kitchen equipment energy consumption, the RMI team uncovered both near-term and future kitchen equipment upgrades that can cut kitchen energy use in half. The team’s analysis uncovers opportunities to reduce idle energy consumption (equipment energy consumption when food items are not being cooked) and increase overall kitchen equipment efficiency without substantially changing McDonald’s operations.

McDonald’s has been driving its kitchen equipment suppliers to improve energy efficiency for years, and the company currently encourages the use of low-oil-volume fryers and custom exhaust hoods that make ventilation more efficient (which also reduces heating and cooling loads). However, more opportunity exists—both in the kitchen and throughout the building. With the results of this study, the McDonald’s team can work with key equipment suppliers to focus on improving the most energy-intensive pieces of equipment and combining pieces of equipment where practical.


In considering net-zero energy, the team did not focus on burger production alone. The menu has other items, and the building has other needs, such as keeping its customers and employees comfortable. The team took an integrative, whole-systems approach to understanding the ways that building systems interact, and leveraging the interactions between building systems.

While the kitchen may be the primary energy consumer, other building systems, including HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning), play a key role in achieving net-zero energy. HVAC energy consumption is very closely tied to kitchen equipment energy consumption. Not only does the kitchen equipment heat its surroundings, but the cooking process requires mechanical ventilation to maintain indoor air quality. The use of targeted ventilation strategies, paired with solar thermal, geothermal, and waste heat loops, could save up to 90–95 percent of HVAC system energy in a NZE store. The team’s strategy also consolidates HVAC and refrigeration equipment and uses advanced control strategies wherever possible to reduce equipment capital costs while reducing system energy consumption.

Building lighting systems are another key area of focus for this study. The study shows up to a 60-percent reduction in lighting energy consumption is possible while also decreasing lighting system capital costs. Improved system design can produce the same light levels as a traditional lighting design using fewer fixtures. Falling LED prices, increasing LED efficiency, and targeted lighting system designs (including natural lighting with skylights) enable this level of energy reduction.

The team uncovered a number of solutions related to the HVAC, lighting, and refrigeration systems, in addition to building envelope, kitchen equipment, and other building load improvements. Where possible, system efficiencies were improved, passive strategies were used, equipment was combined, and waste heat was recovered. Energy efficiency solutions were assessed (using equipment-specific analysis and whole-building energy modeling), prioritized, and packaged into a recommended net-zero energy solution.


The net-zero energy solution recommended to McDonald’s is an all-electric restaurant that would achieve 60 percent energy savings and 90 percent energy cost savings. A 300 kW on-site solar PV system, installed primarily over the parking areas, would provide the energy needed to reach net-zero energy within the footprint of a typical McDonald’s site. The restaurant would offer the same menu and operating hours, and when the sun isn’t shining, it would draw electricity from the utility. While the recommended scenario includes some kitchen technologies that require further development, a separate scenario shows that net-zero energy is achievable today with available technologies at a significant incremental cost.
One of the team’s recommendations is for McDonald’s to pilot an innovative “integrated thermal loop,” that joins solar thermal collectors, waste heat capture, and a geothermal heat pump together to efficiently deliver the space heating, space cooling, and service hot water required by the restaurant. This loop, while similar to those used in net-zero-energy buildings such as the Walgreen’s net-zero-energy retail store, could be expanded in the future to include key pieces of kitchen equipment.


“The net-zero-energy study has become the North Star that will continue to guide our efforts to improve the energy efficiency of our new and existing restaurants,” says Roy Buchert, Global Energy Director for McDonald’s. McDonald’s is likely to leverage this net-zero-energy study to drive further efficiency in new and existing McDonald’s restaurants where it makes business sense. For these restaurants, it is important to leverage existing upgrade opportunities, including equipment swap-outs and interior remodels, to reduce first costs and prevent any disruptions to operations. Many efficiency upgrades include simple, non-invasive changes that could be implemented with minimal disruption.

Building upon the net-zero-energy study, McDonald’s plans to prioritize the findings over time to map alongside its business objectives, and has identified the following steps.

  • Explore recommended energy-efficiency strategies, including research and development to further improve kitchen equipment efficiency, in order to reduce overall NZE costs
  • Potentially design and build a pilot NZE restaurant in the future to act as a “learning lab” to test and validate new technologies
  • Identify one or more vendors to design, deliver, and maintain large solar installations on standard McDonald’s sites, while securing incentives and financing as necessary
  • Engage with the restaurant industry and suppliers as appropriate to help drive future improvements

RMI believes McDonald’s can leverage this study to change the way that we think about energy. Developing the first net-zero-energy quick-service restaurant and driving deeper savings within existing restaurants can spur radical changes and transform the quick-service restaurant industry’s approach to energy. As the largest U.S. and global presence in this industry by revenue, McDonald’s has the power to drive equipment improvements, influence other key players in the industry, and deliver hundreds of millions of dollars in energy savings across the industry each year.


Image courtesy of Bikeworldtravel /