Alanna Cooney, PhD student in Mechanical Engineering at UC Berkeley, received the 2022 Art Rosenfeld Award, a CIEE-managed fellowship awarded to graduate students committed to pursuing research on energy efficiency. She shares how the award has helped further her research on thermal energy storage.
As a former heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) designer for data centers, Alanna’s research goals focus on reducing data centers’ energy usage and carbon footprint. She explores the possibility of using machine learning techniques to manage latent thermal energy storage (LTES) ensembles to create an energy-efficient thermal storage system for data centers.
“The Art Rosenfeld Award was instrumental in getting this research project off the ground and my research advisor and I are currently exploring funding opportunities to take the research to the next phase,” Alanna says.
Alanna recently submitted a conference paper on a study that explores the impact of different design parameters on the performance of the energy storage ensemble and its ability to adapt to dynamically changing operating conditions. In addition, she is completing a journal paper that outlines a unique exergy-based optimization scheme and methodology for using a multi-labeled artificial neural network to dynamically control the system. Using the model that she developed with the Art Rosenfeld Award, she was able to demonstrate a promising thermal storage system that improves flexibility, decreases cost, and maximizes the performance of thermal storage systems in both concentrated solar plants and data center applications.
Alanna says she is optimistic about the potential of this technology as well as exciting developments in energy-related research, particularly in electrification and decarbonization. She is particularly enthusiastic about exergy-based approaches that conserve both the quantity and quality of energy. Alanna is also encouraged by programs like the Justice40 Initiative, which is aimed at directing resources toward energy projects that benefit disadvantaged communities.
“I think that technologies like thermal energy storage not only have great promise for mitigating climate change on large scales but could also be leveraged to decrease energy burdens (the percentage of gross household income spent on energy costs) in low-income households,” Alanna says.
The Art Rosenfeld Award for Energy Efficiency aims to promote innovative research in technologies and policies that will enable a more resource-efficient society, and provides funding to a UC Berkeley graduate student committed to research on energy efficiency. This includes technical, social science, and policy research that can lead to reductions in the use of energy. The Award is currently accepting applications, which close on March 15, 2023.