How can we decarbonize a school’s energy consumption cost-effectively, considering both heating and electricity use?
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Fossil fuels, namely coal, oil, and gas, significantly impact global climate change, responsible for over 75 percent of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide and contributing to nearly 90 percent of total carbon dioxide emissions. As renewable energy options gain popularity, there is growing interest in their application, including within school systems. In this study, we investigated how to decarbonize both electricity and heating/cooling, examining the feasibility and costs of implementing solar + storage systems for meeting different percentages of electricity demand, as well as assessing various heating/cooling technologies, including heat pumps, electric furnaces, natural gas boilers, geothermal, and solar thermal. Our analysis recognized the optimal size of a solar and storage system and highlighted that as we increase unmet demand, the cost of solar generation technology plays a bigger part compared to storage costs. We also identified the most cost-effective heating/cooling technology to meet demand and eliminate carbon emissions to be air-based heat pumps. These findings are valuable for medium-scale buildings like schools and can serve as a reference for broader decarbonization efforts.