NETL Expertise

Energy Systems Analysis

NETL conducts a variety of energy analysis studies to identify and evaluate promising research and development (R&D) opportunities. These studies require a multidisciplinary approach to provide balanced solutions in support of economic sustainability, energy supply security, mitigation of global climate change, and improved environmental performance. The strategic assessments and planning efforts also incorporate the evaluation of current-status, near-term trends, and futuristic scenarios. To learn more about NETL’s Energy Analysis Expertise’s:

Under the scope of the MOU, NETL is using energy data used by the residential, industrial, and commercial sector to analyze energy usage and trends within the city of Pittsburgh. By assessing Pittsburgh’s hot-spots of energy usage and energy trends, developers will be more informed while attempting to identifying energy district opportunities around the city. Furthermore, NETL is supporting Pittsburgh by analyzing distributed energy technology systems (i.e., fuel cells, CHP, boiler, reciprocating engines, micro-turbines, PV solar, wind, batteries, and anaerobic digestion), identifying pathways to apply them to the current energy districts, and looking at the impact city-wide. By doing this, NETL is helping Pittsburgh become a center for innovation not just in energy district and “eco-district” design, but also in the advanced energy technologies which will underpin those districts.

NETL has developed an Energy Baseline Report which evaluates energy consumption within the city of Pittsburgh and adjacent boroughs on an annual and monthly basis. The consumption data was evaluated to determine trends, identify opportunities for energy use reduction, and ascertain locations where energy districts could provide heightened environmental performance and improved resiliency. The life cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with city-wide energy use were then determined to assess the climate impacts of city-wide energy use. Three types of energy consumption were evaluated based on data availability: natural gas, electricity, and petroleum. Data provided by the utilities was collated by location to the ZIP code level and examined to provide a city-wide assessment.

For more information:

Thomas Tarka
U.S. Department of Energy
National Energy Technology Laboratory

To view the Pittsburgh 2013 Energy Baseline brochure: Click here.

Fuel Cells

Solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC) are electrochemical devices that convert chemical energy of a fuel and oxidant directly into electrical energy. Since SOFCs produce electricity through an electrochemical reaction and not through a combustion process, they are much more efficient and environmentally benign than conventional electric power generation processes. Their inherent characteristics make them uniquely suitable to address the environmental, climate change, and water concerns associated with fossil fuel based electric power generation. To learn more about SOFC’s:

The NETL Fuel Cell Program maintains a portfolio of research design and development (RD&D) projects that address the technical issues facing the commercialization of SOFC technology and a series of increasingly larger demonstration projects intended to validate the solutions to those issues. To successfully complete the maturation of the SOFC technology from its present state to the point of commercial readiness, the Program’s efforts are channeled through three key technologies, each of which has its respective research focus.

A SOFC Power System will be a NETL funded technology demonstrated under the Pittsburgh MOU. This 200 kWe power generation prototype, developed by FuelCell Energy, was installed in July 2018 at the NRG Energy Center on the North Side. It is expected to be operational in mid-August with a goal to run for at least 5,000 hours to quantify long-term degradation as well as system availability and reliability. The system will use natural gas as a fuel and produce electricity at efficiency greater than 50 percent. A 200 kWe SOFC power system can power approximately 100 homes. When commercially available, SOFC distributed power generation systems will enhance energy security and reduce the dependence on the central electric grid.


For more information:

Shailesh Vora
U.S. Department of Energy
National Energy Technology Laboratory


Under the scope of Pittsburgh MOU, NETL is assessing the potential for deep direct use of geothermal energy in the city of Pittsburgh. NETL is conducting a case study which investigates deep direct use (DDU) within the city of Pittsburgh, such as the Hazelwood Green energy district. In general, deep direct use applications lend themselves to large scale, commercial systems that optimize the value stream of lower temperature resources through a cascade of uses, from electricity generation to direct heating and cooling, industrial and commercial applications, and agricultural uses (Anderson, 2016).  At the temperatures of interest under DDU, typically greater than 180 deg. F, the thermal energy from the earth is hot enough to avoid the requirement of a heat pump to meet the needed application temperatures (e.g., building heating).

NETL is supporting the City of Pittsburgh by providing expertise in the following areas:

Selection of Study Partner within City of Pittsburgh—NETL worked with representatives from the City of Pittsburgh and NRG to coordinate discussions with parties interested in applying geothermal energy to support their energy needs. The Hazelwood Green district was selected for a case study.

Thermal Load Characterization—NETL worked with technical points of contact from The Hazelwood Green to characterize the energy loads of the site—e.g., overall annual heat demand, and representative winter daily heating cycle.

Bore-hole Design—NETL geologists are working to design the necessary well size and depths to provide delivery of the geothermal energy for the given application.  They are documenting what is understood regarding the targeted strata (permeability, temperature, bulk thermal conductivity, relative degree of natural fracturing, etc.) and expected well production rates, reservoir pressures, etc., based on information in nearby wells.

Surface System Design—NETL is working on a conceptual design for the surface systems (piping, pumps, heat exchangers, etc.) to manage the geothermal water, and potentially required natural gas re-heater system needed to employ the geothermal energy within the given application.

Cost Study—NETL will provide estimates of the cost of heating using the proposed conceptual design solution. 
Anderson, A. (2016). Geothermal Vision Study--Thermal Task Force Overview. Geothermal Technologies Office.

For more information:

Randall Gemmen
U.S. Department of Energy
National Energy Technology Laboratory

Robert James III
U.S. Department of Energy
National Energy Technology Laboratory

To view the Pittsburgh 2013 Energy Baseline brochure: (insert link here).