Monitoring peak power and cooling energy savings of shade trees and white surfaces in the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) service area: project design and preliminary results

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Urban areas in warm climates create summer heat islands of daily average intensity of 3-5 °C, adding to discomfort and increasing air-conditioning loads. Two important factors contributing to urban heat islands are reductions in albedo (lower overall city reflectance) and loss of vegetation (less evapotranspiration). Reducing summer heat islands by planting vegetation (shade trees) and increasing surface albedos, saves cooling energy, allows down-sizing of air conditioners, lowers air-conditioning peak demand, and reduces the emission of CO2 and other pollutants from electric power plants. The focus of this multi-year project, jointly sponsored by SMUD and the California Institute for Energy Efficiency (CIEE), was to measure the direct cooling effects of trees and white surfaces (mainly roofs) in a few buildings in Sacramento. The first-year project was to design the experiment and obtain base case data. We also obtained limited post retrofit data for some sites. This report provides an overview of the project activities during the first year at six sites. The measurement period for some of the sites was limited to September and October, which are transitional cooling months in Sacramento and hence the interpretation of results only apply to this period. In one house, recoating the dark roof with a high-albedo coating rendered air conditioning unnecessary for the month of September (possible savings of up to 10 kWh per day and 2 kW of non-coincidental peak power). Savings of 50% relative to an identical base case bungalow were achieved when a school bungalow's roof and southeast wall were coated with a high-albedo coating during the same period. DOE-2 simulations of these two buildings indicated savings of significantly lower magnitude than those measured. Given these results, the large measured savings may in part be attributed to generally lower insolation during the post-monitoring period. Our measured data for the vegetation sites do not indicate conclusive results because shade trees were small and the cooling period was almost over. We need to collect more data over a longer cooling season in order to demonstrate savings conclusively. The DOE-2 simulations of these buildings appear to indicate very small or no savings from trees. The issue of comparing DOE-2 simulations with measured data will be addressed in further detail during the second year of the project.

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