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LCA perspective to assess the environmental impact of a novel PCM-based cold storage unit for the civil air conditioning

De Falco, Marcello, Capocelli, Mauro, Losito, Giovanni, Piemonte, Vincenzo
Journal of cleaner production 2017 v.165 pp. 697-704
acidification, air conditioning, cold storage, ecological footprint, energy, energy conservation, energy use and consumption, environmental impact, eutrophication, fossil fuels, global warming, human health, life cycle assessment, manufacturing
Cold storage is a valid solution for the energy peak reduction in the air conditioning field, which strongly affects the energy consumption in the civil sector. An innovative storage device, called ColdPeak, has been already tested in a recently published work, demonstrating unparalleled properties in terms of charging/discharging storage power. Now, the unit is analyzed from the environmental point of view by means of a LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) methodology: the air conditioning system integrating the ColdPeak unit has been compared with a conventional system from the environmental point of view, assuming the same potentiality of cold energy and including a sensitive analysis on the energy saving potential of the innovative device (5–25% of the energy required by the conventional system). In the sensitivity analysis, the energy saving is counter-balanced by the energy load required for the manufacturing and installation of an additional component in the air conditioning system (the ColdPeak device itself).The environmental footprint that considers the material and the energy to fabricate the ColdPeak is very low if compared with the amount of energy saved thanks to its application. As a matter of fact, the LCA study reports that the integration of the cold storage unit allows a significant reduction of environmental footprint in terms of Global Warming Potential (−17%), Acidification Potential (−15.5%), Eutrophication Potential (−18%), Eco-toxicity (−16%), Human Health (−18%) and Fossil Depletion (−18%). The paper also reports the temporal trend of the environmental footprint that shows a pay-back period for the construction of the innovative integrated system of less than one year for all the investigated categories.