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100% Net Zero Carbon for all Buildings. MIT 60-80% NZ for free! #DivestTheCampus -- Join the #NetZeroMovement to save the Planet!



We present a 100% Net Zero Carbon (NZ) solution for MIT's campus using existing, proven technologies (see graph).  Over 60% greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction is effectively free -- a global "goal" climate solution for all buildings.

NZ is an economic 4-way Win: Owners Win by Eliminating Utility Costs, Communities Win with Clean Energy (CE) Jobs, we all Win by saving the Climate, and investors Win with NZ facilitating AAA Climate Bonds.  Wealth then builds in communities instead of multi-national corporations!

This is a great inflection point in history -- when we return to getting all our energy from the Sun and Earth as depicted below -- a new "Age of Free Energy".

The NZ Solution is presented in four (4) Phases, with implementation of each technology as it becomes "effectively free".  R&D efforts are identified in areas where cost reduction or technical advancement will increase the rate of NZ Carbon adoption.

Scientists say we must reach NZ Carbon rapidly for even a 50% chance of limiting Climate Change to 1.5°C and to save whole island nations!  NZ for all buildings is the least expensive part of essential Climate Action, and a step we must take Now.

The world needs a high profile Leader to spread this NZ Carbon Solution promptly around the world.

A "goal" Climate Solution is described.  But the questions still on the table are:

  1)  Who will Lead this Movement to NZ Carbon for Campuses and Buildings? and

  2)  How fast will this Climate Solution spread to all Buildings Globally?

Our explicit contention is that MIT should use its unmatched Education and R&D abilities to become the Leading Authority and Educator for Post-Carbon energy systems.  MIT already has excellent Sustainability Leadership and expertise in all the requisite fields of study, and we have assembled a team of the top four (4) North American experts in NZ Buildings and Campuses to help MIT design and implement this NZ Energy system.

MIT should Act Now and become the Global NZ Climate Action Leader.

What actions do you propose?

Foreword by Co-Author Rick Clemenzi, MIT'81, Co-Founder Net Zero Foundation:

I am an MIT'81 Systems Engineer who accidentally landed back in the Renewable Energy (RE) industry and found something I am compelled to share.  In a nutshell, we have all the technology and money needed to completely solve well over half of our Climate Problems, but there is a severe lack of Technical Leadership.

We have assembled a group of experts who know how to eliminate all fossil fuel use for Buildings mostly for "free" -- i.e., the savings exceeds the costs, and the not yet "free" part soon will be.  Buildings use the largest amount of energy on the planet -- a big Climate opportunity.  These experts have already implemented multiple Net Zero Energy institutional and large retail sites, and have taken one college campus to Net Zero Carbon.

Net Zero Foundation's mission is to communicate this "free" Climate Solution to the world, but the task is large and urgent. 

A global Demonstration Site and High Profile Leader like MIT is needed!

As an alum, I know that MIT has both the brainpower and position to be the Global Leader the world needs.  The MIT Sustainability Group has the acumen and mission to lead this effort within MIT involving a dozen or so other departments, as long as the Administration and Board fully commit to the plan.

With Leadership, the Net Zero Movement can take off globally and solve much of our Climate Issues.

Please vote for our proposal so MIT will accept this Net Zero Challenge.  Together we can change the world!



The energy delivered by the Sun to the Earth in one hour is more than humanity uses in a year.  This vast solar energy supply allows us to create a new class of buildings/campuses that are called Net Zero Carbon (NZ).  Implementing NZ is a Systems Engineering task combining Energy Efficiency (EE), Geothermal Heat Pumps (GHP), Thermal Storage, Photovoltaics (PV), Battery Storage, and other "Clean Energy" (CE) from the grid (Wind, etc.).  Some NZ Commercial Buildings already exist in the U.S.[24], and the pace of NZ construction/?conversion is increasing. 

Several large companies, school systems, and the entire federal government[6] are committed to NZ construction and retrofits for all their large buildings within the next decade.  The exponentially growing "Climate Bond" field provides a virtually unlimited funding source for NZ.[7]

MIT should implement a NZ conversion, and provide Global Leadership and R&D where advancements are needed.  Funds currently directed to boiler and chiller system upgrades, neither of which will ever be NZ Carbon, should be redirected to NZ.

The thermal energy system proposed here has been proven "effectively free" based on cost savings and available Climate Bond financing, thus removing MIT's need for Capital Improvement funds.  Failure by MIT to take this step now will unnecessarily lock the MIT campus into fossil fuel consumption for decades.

We further propose on-site PV and energy storage that will take MIT to 100% GHG emissions free.  Our initial recommendation calls for a 25 year implementation period that is likely to be effectively free -- faster implementation is possible.

New Thinking Required - Novelty

Achieving full NZ/GHG elimination for buildings involves the following five (5) technology sets:

  1. Energy Efficiency (EE) (already underway),
  2. Highly efficient Advanced Thermal HVAC systems with Thermal Storage,
  3. On-site Clean Energy production - PV (photovoltaics), possibly PV + thermal,
  4. On-site electric storage via next generation battery systems (see research),
  5. Off-site Clean Energy generation (or purchase).


MIT's campus currently uses a CHP plant, a generation of equipment with efficiencies in the 65% to 100% percent range and completely dependent on a fossil fuel supply.  The Advanced Thermal solutions we bring are of a fundamentally different nature with System efficiencies generally 350%-450% (Coefficient of Performance (COP) = 3.5 - 4.5), usually including daily, weekly, and annual cycle thermal storage.  Advanced Thermal powered by PV or Wind has an infinite efficiency from a GHG perspective, and a distributed Micro District breaks prior "district heat" concepts requiring new thinking.

The goal solution for HVAC centers around GHP - the proven, most efficient HVAC/thermal building energy system.  The next best HVAC system (VRF ASHP) is 44% less efficient, thus requires 79% more power to operate (1/(1-0.44)=1.79).[15]

Our solution goes much further by implementing a fully distributed, fully adaptive thermal system - the current cutting edge state of the art in this field termed "Adaptive Loop".  This system achieves maximum diversity efficiency, eliminates source and distribution thermal losses, recycles internal "waste" thermal energy (heat pumps produce waste heat when cooling and waste cool when heating), and can time shift that energy (via storage) to operate even more efficiently: COP = 4.0 to 6.0.  It is a technology "leapfrog" opportunity, skipping less efficient Steam-to-Hot Water upgrades many campuses/districts are planning that require massive campus disruption for new infrastructure piping and still has distribution losses.  GHP Adaptive Loop can be implemented utilizing existing piping infrastructure.


MIT should notice the writing on the wall:

  • Climate Change is clearly caused by GHG emissions
  • "13 out of the 15 highest monthly temperature departures in the record have all occurred since February 2015" (NOAA, April 2016)
  • The Divestment Movement displays a growing impatience for action
  • Once the world realizes NZ Carbon is partially available for "free", the pressure for NZ transformation will grow exponentially.

This plan easily meets the 32% GHG reduction goal and shows how to completely eliminate GHG emissions from MIT's campus operations by 2040 or sooner.  While we only propose implementing technologies as they reach the "effectively free" point with available financing, much faster full conversion is possible and must at least be planned for under the above circumstances.  Boldly targeting faster NZ implementation would solidify MIT as a Global Climate Leader.

MIT's CHP plant was cutting edge when it was installed, and is still the best solution for on-site electric plus heat generation when fossil fuel use is allowed.  However, a CHP plant is inherently fossil fuel based, and the day is coming when that use will no longer be tolerated for non-Industrial sites -- certainly not once PV/Wind is cheaper.  MIT and similar campuses should accept this fact and plan now for retirement of CHP plants no later than 2050.

The Cost

Funding for this plan will be from fossil fuel savings, already planned mechanical system expenditures, maintenance savings, grants from MA Clean Energy Center, plus Net Zero Bonds certified under the Climate Bonds Initiative [7] or the MIT Endowment once its managers realize this is the best investment MIT can make for the future.  These systems all have far lower LCC (Life Cycle Cost) -- savings generated will be indefinite and more secure than existing endowment investments.  The greater economic benefits of NZ conversion are significant and should be studied.

Plan Outline

The plan includes the following specific steps detailed below (Systems Installation Track):

Design: Site Analysis, Advanced Thermal System Modeling/Simulation/Design - Year 1

Phase 1: Advanced Thermal Systems Installation - Years 1 - 25

Phase 2: Advanced On-Campus PV Systems Installation - Years 2 - 26

Phase 3: Advanced Electric Battery Systems Installation - Years 10 - 35

Phase 4: Final Net Zero Carbon Conversion - Years 25 - 35

Our Research Recommendations include the following:

Net Zero Research:

Item 1: Net Zero Energy Economics - Continuous

Item 2: Full Net Zero Energy Conversion Modeling - Years 2+

Advanced Thermal Research:

Item 3: Drill Rig Silencing - Years 1 - 2

Item 4: Tuned Phase Change Energy Storage Pods - Years 1 - 5

Item 5: Thermal Systems Optimization Curriculum and Analysis - Years 3+

Advanced Electric Research/Analysis:

Item 6: Large Capacity Electric Battery R&D - Years 1 - 15

Item 7: Flat Tracking Solar PV Demonstration/Analysis - Years 2-4



We do not have sufficient space to fully teach cost-effective NZ, but we suggest the following list proves feasibility:

  • Members of our Expert Team have completed institutional and retail NZ buildings, including converting two college campus to NZ Carbon (one completed)
  • IKEA and Walgreens have already built NZ and NZ Ready (NZR) stores with corporate commitments to NZ Carbon (our team included)
  • US DOE has significant NZ/NZR Buildings efforts (see
  • U.S. government has committed to make all large buildings NZ [6]
  • There are now over 200 NZ Commercial Buildings in the U.S. [24]



The technologies proposed are proven, but improper/insufficient design is a real risk.  While PV is not yet "effectively free", PV is none-the-less becoming risk free.  But, central to this proposal is conversion of MIT campus HVAC systems to Advanced Thermal/GHP.  This is cutting edge Systems Engineering and requires experienced experts.  It is shocking that many engineers are willing to profess they "do geothermal" yet don't have the required experience or CGD (Certified GeoExchange Designer) training.  There are many improperly designed GHP systems that our team has had to fix.  The root of the CGD training is knowing how to model, simulate, and then design large commercial GHP systems to be both reliable and economical.  The distributed and adaptive campus/?district system modeling/simulation requires expertise beyond any existing training.

We have assembled the following team of top North American (NAm) NZ experts for Design and Phases 1-2 to eliminate risk (very abbreviated bios):

  • Don Penn, PE, CGD, CGI - 49 state licensed professional engineer responsible for the largest Net Zero secondary school to date, GHP systems for school districts in four (4) states, consulted on GHP at Harvard, on the DOE Review Committee that approved largest district GHP project to date (Ball State);
  • Ed Lohrenz, B.E.S., CGD - GHP industry since 1982, wrote the CGD training course, large system 2nd and 3rd party review, and the go-to expert for GHP forensic analysis;
  • Cary Smith, CGD, CEM, CEA - 40 years experience in energy systems, distributed/?district GHP specialist with numerous distributed systems including one 3500 ton university now effectively NZ and another in process;
  • Carl Orio, CGD - the premier GHP drilling expert in the Northeast U.S. whose team has designed and equipped over 14,000 geo systems, co-author “Modern Geothermal HVAC Engineering & Control Applications”;
  • Rick Clemenzi, PE, CGD, MIT'81 - product/systems engineer, GHP engineer/contractor, flat-tracking PV breakthrough inventor, co-founder Net Zero Foundation (501c3).


The only topic outside the expertise of these individuals is Systems Installation Phase 3 (Years 15 - 25) based on the results of Research Item 6: Large Capacity Electric Battery R&D (Years 1 - 15).  That field requires new expertise.


Systems Installation Track

Following are the 5 steps associated with full NZ conversion of MIT.  Only Design and Phase 1 are required to meet the near-term requested 32% GHG reduction.

Design: Site Analysis, Advanced Thermal System Modeling/Simulation/Design - Year 1

Designing a partial or full NZ campus system requires accurate modeling and simulation of all building loads and energy sources as follows:

  • Building load analysis on all campus building (EnergyPlus/Trane Trace/etc.), at least at the hour-by-hour block load level.
  • Tests of the geology and hydrology beneath the MIT campus.  This will involve a series of test bores between 500' and 1500' deep, water yield tests, and Thermal Response Tests.
  • Tests of the shallow geology with horizontal bores and Thermal Response Tests.
  • Combined campus distributed thermal system model/simulation.
  • Fully analyze existing chiller system infrastructure and other site/utility issues.


GHP system design alone is an approximately 10 key parameter multivariate regression solution.  Fully-distributed campus/districts add several more parameters.  The goal is to find the most economical solution for the entire site.  Our team has extensive knowledge of MIT buildings and the local geology, leading us to an initial observation that a distributed hybrid GHEX (ground heat exchanger) solution is likely optimal for this site.

Here are a few facts about MIT/Cambridge that will likely impact the design.  The Cambridge area produces copious amounts of water during air rotary drilling, thus a high drilling cost but also both Standing Water Column (SWC) and ATS (Aquifer Thermal Storage) solutions.  Existing Cambridge SWC experience has some issues, but was due to design and implementation errors.  MIT has a shallow thermal resource because it abuts a "lake" (Charles River) and is pretty obviously on fill, thus a significant horizontal bore thermal resource is available -- fully saturated ground is an excellent thermal conductor.  Once all issues are known, design and implementation of GHP systems can proceed.

An interim Design Phase result will be a full site simulation tool allowing flexible experimentation with GHEX placement and configuration.  Our intention is to minimize campus disruption, but there will certainly be some well drilling, horizontal drilling, and some piping infrastructure needed.  This simulation tool will allow experimentation with all tradeoffs for an optimal solution.  "Low hanging fruit" from a GHG point of view may drive early implementation, possibly including temporarily isolated systems.

A detailed analysis of available roof space for the Phase 2 PV systems will also be completed.

Phase 1: Advanced Thermal Systems Installation - Years 1 - 25

We propose conversion of MIT's campus and other buildings to a fully distributed and adaptive GHP-based HVAC and DHW system, utilizing existing Chilled Water (CW) piping as much as possible.  This is a "leapfrog" solution to the cutting edge state-of-the-art, possibly voiding the need for currently planned boiler and chiller upgrades.  As stated above, GHP is the most efficient HVAC solution with low LCC cost due to the inherent thermal advantage of the ground, no equipment exposed to weather, and GHEX and piping technologies with life expectancies beyond the building structure.

The Expert Team has experience in this solution at all scales and in all parts of NAm, including Cambridge.  Most GHP upgrades now occurring are self financing -- i.e., "effectively free" with savings exceeding installation and financing costs.

HVAC equipment in general has a 20-30 year life, so it is important to immediately begin implementation of this "leapfrog" technology lest inferior equipment is installed and likely used for 15-20 years minimum.  This illuminates the fully integrated aspect of this effort: all parties need to be on board to achieve maximum efficiency, rapid GHG reduction, and minimum cost.

A GHP conversion will eliminate central steam production and chiller use, but add some electricity use for distributed equipment.  We must estimate the equipment electric load as we do not have sufficient MIT building data for a detailed analysis.  MIT's space breakdown (55% Lab, 23% Office, 22% dorm) and the lab space's 3:1 ratio of EUI (energy use index) likely makes MIT cooling dominate on an annualized basis.  If not, then significant EE measures must be undertaken as part of any NZ conversion.  Available GHG emissions data[5] suggests heat is fully 66% of the energy load at MIT due to Steam, demonstrating the massive inefficiency of Steam heating.  We do realize that several dorms are not part of the CW load, but the inefficiency of Steam heat is the bottom line with significant distribution and generation losses.  GHP systems run at moderate loop temperatures (40-85°F/4-29°C), virtually eliminating all distribution losses.

To estimate the converted GHG load without more detailed data, we instead assume the following: 1) the thermal systems (GHP, etc) must provide 50% of the annual campus energy load (heating/cooling/DHW == electricity used), 2) a GHP system with minimum total system COP=3.2 annualized average will be implemented, and 3) an average CHP/purchased GHG rate for electricity.  A COP of 3.2 is very conservative - we intend to design to a higher figure.  Based on Groode (2003, relative conclusion assumed):

            Total MIT MTCO2e = 192,247

            Total Plant MTCO2e = 160,108

            Total MTCO2e due to Steam = 106,220

            Total MTCO2e due to CW = 25,752

            Total MTCO2e due to Generated Electricity = 29,665

            Total MTCO2e due to Purchased Electricity = 30,667


            Electricity Generated = 124.4M kWh/yr = 124.4K MWh

            Electricity Purchased = 45.0M kWh/yr = 45.0K MWh

            Total Electricity = 169.4M kWh/yr = 169,400 MWh/yr

            Electricity for Thermal Load at COP 3.2 = 169,400 MWh/yr * (1/3.2)  = 52,938 MWh/yr


            CHP electricity GHG/Wh = 29,665 MTCO2e  / 124.4K MWh = 0.24 MTCO2e/MWh

            Purchased GHG/Wh = 30,667 / 45.0K MWh = 0.68 MTCO2e/MWh

            Weighted Average GHG/Wh = 0.36 MTCO2e/MWh (rounded)


            GHG from Thermal Load = 52,938 MWh/yr * 0.36 MTCO2e/MWh = 18,840 MTCO2e

            GHG Savings = Steam: 106,220 + CW: 25,752 - GHP: 18,840 = 113,132 MTCO2e

            GHP GHG Savings Total = 113,132 / 192,247 = 58.8%

The net savings by conversion from Steam and CW to GHP is over 50% of the total campus GHG emissions.  We modeled a 25 year implementation period, but much faster implementation is possible.  Additional GHG savings may be possible with phase-change thermal storage -- left out of this analysis for simplicity (reduces GHEX sizing and provides energy storage for excess grid PV/Wind).

Phase 2: Advanced On-Campus PV Systems Installation - Years 2 - 26

To achieve NZ-100%, PV electric generation will be required.  At this moment, PV is not yet "effectively free" to install like GHP.  However, that "free" date is coming.  We propose MIT begin early in this process to investigate, demonstrate, test and evaluate rooftop PV solutions in anticipation of rapid future PV growth.

To initiate this Advanced PV effort, we give MIT notice of a new PV system development that will be available by late 2017 increasing rooftop flat mounted PV panel output by up to 50%.  It is a patent-based effort co-initiated by team member Clemenzi based on a fundamental re-think of the PV Balance of Systems that optimizes output with panel-to-panel shading, achieving the same relative efficiency of pole mounted tracking systems without gaps between panels.  This invention is soon to be 3rd party tested, and we recommend that MIT become an early demonstration and validation site.

There are other PV system breakthroughs suitable for rooftop installation, including combined PV/thermal and panelized concentrating PV.  MIT is encouraged to make every effort to experiment with all these systems now, both for educational reasons and research/breakthrough -- there are certainly more breakthroughs to come.  MIT can be a leader in this research 'on-the-roof' as well as 'in-the-lab'.

Based on a cursory analysis of the MIT site and data from the MA Department of Energy Resources (DOER) in Brockton, MA, adjusted to current panel outputs, one can expect about 20.7 kWh/sqft /yr output from fixed PV panel installations in the greater Boston area.  With MIT's approximate 2.4M sq. ft. of roof space available (estimated) and basic assumptions of 65% net coverage, 150% BOS improvement, and a 10% expected average PV cell increase over 20 years, that would be about 53.2M kWh/yr which exceeds purchased electricity, or about 31% of the total electricity (2003).  Since PV output generally corresponds with commercial peak demand, actual "cost" savings will occur.  We predict GHG savings of 100% of that from purchased electricity plus 7% of generated electricity, or about 32,633 MTCO2e /yr or 17% of MIT's total GHG.

Phase 3: Advanced Electric Battery Systems Installation - Years 10 - 35

Consider the following report cited May 16, 2016 by Bloomberg titled 'Germany Just Got Almost All of Its Power From Renewable Energy': "Solar and wind power peaked at 2 p.m. local time on Sunday, allowing renewables to supply 45.5 gigawatts as demand was 45.8 gigawatts... Power [production] prices turned negative during several 15-minute periods yesterday, dropping as low as minus 50 euros ($57) a megawatt-hour, according to data from Epex Spot.".[18]  There have also already been periods in some U.S. locations with off-peak free electricity from Wind generation plus un-throttleable baseload generation has exceeded demand ("A Texas Utility Offers a Nighttime Special: Free Electricity", NY Times, Nov. 8, 2015).

Surplus RE electric energy is happening due to the variability of Wind.  Opportunities for free electricity will grow as more Wind/PV is installed.  There will be excess Clean Electricity every day with high winds, and other times none.

MIT should be ready no later than Year 15 to take full advantage of this cheap/free Clean Energy from the grid.  Current off-the-shelf pricing for batteries is about $200K/MWh.  Flow battery developers are predicting $100K/MWh.  We challenge MIT to devise a battery system that at least doubles this predicted improvement to $50K/MWh.  For conceptual purposes, the GHG savings we show include installation of $2M/year at $100K/MWh starting in Year 10 and $50K/MWh from Year 15 on.  The actual GHG savings will depend on how much surplus Clean Electricity is available.  We assume one full battery cycle per week which we believe is a very conservative estimate.  This alone will yield 29% of total electricity (Groode) from off-peak battery storage.  This percent will vary significantly depending on how much "excess" Wind energy is available at night, but could easily be 100% of the electric need if enough battery were installed!

Further analysis shows that the night to day electric peak shifting value of this battery system, assuming 220 days use per year and just 7.5 year life, is $50K/MWh / 220 days / 7.5 years / 1000 kWh/MWh = $0.03 / kWh -- a cost way below the actual peak shifting value.  Development of a battery at this price point will significantly accelerate NZ adoption.

Phase 4: Final Net Zero Carbon Conversion - Years 25 - 35

Full NZ Carbon conversion of the MIT campus will become an imperative once all realize NZ is economically feasible.  As Phases 1-3 are completed, the MIT campus will periodically operate NZ Carbon.  It is a greater challenge to attain full NZ Carbon 24/7/365.  This requires effectively a new science: fully understanding the variations and extremes of the campus energy systems and non-carbon electric sources.  These factors must be modeled to determine a final NZ Carbon solution.

Moving toward full NZ, at times the CHP plant O&M costs will exceed the social cost from the community for carbon-based power.  Grid power will periodically be below CHP cost, and MIT should plan to take the plant off-line for both short and extended periods, including full seasons.  This extends the life of the plant allowing it to be available for peak demand.


Research Track (MIT)

We identify some NZ technologies not yet available off-the-shelf, and some needing cost-effectiveness improvements to accelerate NZ system adoption.  They are separated by category.

Net Zero Research:

Item 1: Net Zero Carbon Macro Economics - Continuous

This proposed project is built on being "effectively free", with utility savings exceeding the project cost.  The long term macro economic benefits of NZ systems have not been studied, and the results may significantly accelerate NZ adoption.

Item 2: Full Net Zero Conversion Modeling - Years 2+

Periodic surplus of Wind and PV generated electricity is inevitable.  PV + GHP may readily exceed NZ in the summer, but not in the winter.  The reality of fluctuating/periodic excess power and fluctuating/periodic demand complicates decisions.

MIT should take an active role in modeling and simulation of fluctuating and periodic power, multi-level storage systems, and their effect on energy systems operation and implementation decisions.  Mastering this research will differentiate the Leaders in the coming NZ world.


Advanced Thermal Research:

Item 3: Drill Rig Silencing - Years 1 - 2

NZ Buildings often require well drilling (GHEX), especially in urban and dense suburban areas.  The high sound levels associated with well drilling can be a barrier item for the adoption of GHP.

We recommend MIT initiate a UROP for mitigation of the drilling rig noise.  Competent Aero-Astro/ME teams could easily improve the state of the art.  This could accelerate NZ adoption in dense/urban areas.

Item 4: Tuned Phase Change Energy Storage Pods - Years 1 - 5

Two (2) significant thermal cycles are involved in GHP systems: 1) seasonal (GHEX, large), and 2) daily (smaller).  Ice has long been used for phase change energy storage, but the change is at 32°F (0°C) and thus only useful for cooling.  A phase change at about 60°F (15.6°C), the mid-point of a normal GHEX thermal cycle, could optimize GHP.  A suitable Storage Pod will be non-toxic, low LCC, modularized, and easily buried under sidewalks.  These thermal storage pods will reduce the cost of any GHP/NZ system.

Item 5: Thermal Systems Optimization Curriculum and Analysis - Years 3+

Poor design is a big problem with GHP.  Mechanical Engineers regularly design GHP systems without proper understanding or training.  The standard ME curriculum does not include dynamic thermal system modeling, and is built on assumptions about infinite utility availability.  It is imperative that B.S. degree programs include specific academic and laboratory understanding of these dynamic and finite resource systems.  MIT should develop a standard curriculum element and utilize the new MIT NZ system as a laboratory, and Masters/PhD research in Advanced Thermal Systems should be supported.

There are "known unknowns" in the GHP earth thermal battery systems.  Any system installed at MIT should be highly sensorized, including deep and shallow earth sensors, and the data studied by a cross-discipline group.


Advanced Electric Research/Analysis:

Item 6: Large Capacity Electric Battery R&D - Years 1 - 15

Negative pricing for electricity generation fully highlights one of the significant challenges with Clean Energy development, and some have incorrectly theorized that no more than 50% of our energy can come from renewables.  A Systems/Queuing Theory understanding shows that large-scale energy storage is the solution -- i.e., a "Battery".

There are many types of Batteries, including some used in the electric grid like Pumped Storage.  Pumped Storage is in general limited to mountainous locations or hydroelectric dams.  Currently there are significant Lithium Ion battery "cell" developments underway and being used for some residential/commercial energy storage, but these batteries are expensive and best for portable/transportation use.

With fixed sites such as MIT, a variation on batteries can be implemented called "Flow Batteries" which separate the electrodes from the electrolyte storage.  Flow Battery research is already underway at MIT.  Fuel Cells are another approach to an electric storage system.  Both of these storage technologies allow for large quantities of energy storage.

The bottom line is that our society needs more advanced forms of energy storage to allow us to generate the majority or all of our electric energy from time-varying renewable sources.  We believe MIT should embark on a major R&D effort in the electric storage field to successfully bring one or more of these technologies to large scale use.  Our indicated timeline for this is Years 1-15, but the sooner this capability is available, the sooner 100% NZ will help solve our climate problems.

Item 7: Flat Tracking Solar PV Demonstration/Analysis - Years 2-4

In NREL's 2016 report on Rooftop Solar Photovoltaic Technical Potential [17] based solely on existing fixed panel installation methods, they conclude an average of 38.6% of all electric generation needs can come from rooftop PV installation alone.  There are several PV advancements now in the R&D pipeline that will increase this figure significantly.  As stated above, the new Intelli-Products PV Flat Tracking Shade Embracing Balance of Systems Advancement (pat. pend.) should increase rooftop PV output up to 50% from the same physical installation footprint.  The Intelli-Products advancement alone can increase that potential electric generation from rooftops to over 50% of all electricity needed.  This one advancement could allow MIT to generate 31% of its electric power from rooftop PV.  MIT should study all of these PV related advancements on an ongoing basis.

We have significant confidence in MIT's ability to make even further advancements in the area of PV systems, not just cell technologies.

(For full disclosure, one of the writers of this proposal is a co-inventor of the Intelli-Products PV advancement.)



All of the necessary technologies are available to get our energy from just the Sun and the Earth.  We are standing at the beginning of a new Age for Humanity as we cease using fossil fuel for energy.

We have presented a complete NZ Campus/District Energy Solution for MIT, with almost 60% GHG savings already effectively free, and another 17% soon to become "free".  The solution is cutting edge and requires a Systems Engineering perspective and approach.  The identified Expert Team is ready to show MIT how to reliably initiate this NZ conversion.  The hope is that MIT will use this NZ effort and its vast R&D ability to accelerate global NZ adoption.

Is MIT ready to be a NZ Demonstration Site and Global Leader?  We hope the answer is Yes!

Who will take these actions?

It will take All of Us working together to transform to the Net Zero Energy world.  Homes must convert (GHP + PV), commercial buildings must convert (GHP + PV), industry must convert (Solar Thermal, PV, GHP, Wind), transportation must convert (EV + Batt), and the remaining electric grid must convert (Wind + PV + GEO).

Systems Installation Track

We expect the Office of Sustainability will be the lead for the systems installation effort.  We have assembled a team of top North American experts to assist MIT in the design and installation of the Net Zero Systems.  The breadth of experience in this team is critical for success of this effort.  The team of experts is identified in the Risk/Team section above.

Research Track

The Research Track is for MIT faculty and students to achieve.  It contains a very broad spectrum of technologies and complexities, including advanced research that will take years.  The full spectrum of departments involved in the cited research efforts will likely include ME (2), Materials (3), Architecture (4), Chemistry (5), EE (6), Economics (14), Management (15), Earth Sciences (12), Engineering Systems Division (ESD), Science/Technology/Society (STS), Environmental Solutions Initiative (ESI), and MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI).

Net Zero Foundation

Net Zero Foundation was created to educate and spread the Net Zero Energy/Net Zero Carbon Understanding and Vision.  Want to get involved?  Join the Net Zero Foundation -- follow us on Twitter.  Let's Change the World!

How much will emissions be reduced or sequestered vs. business as usual levels?

The MIT Net Zero Conversion GHG Savings graph shows the projected carbon reduction from this Net Zero Carbon proposal.  For MIT, we achieve 58.8% GHG savings with an Advanced Thermal solution "effectively free", and 17% GHG reduction from an Advanced PV installation. 

Thermal and electric energy storage and off-site purchased PV/Wind energy will take the campus to 100% Net Zero Carbon.


Predicted GHG emissions for MIT are as follows, 1%/yr EE assumed, base MTCO2e = 192,247 [5] (w/o Purchased Clean Energy):

Year    GHG

2016   189,556

2020   157,100

2025   119,956

2030   85,653

2035   54,439

2040   27,307

2045   21,037

2050   18,557

What are other key benefits?

The Net Zero Foundation proposals show a specific plan for significant near-term energy and carbon reduction goals, and a mid-term path to 100% Net Zero Carbon.

For MIT, we achieve 58.8% GHG savings with an Advanced Geothermal Heat Pump solution "effectively free", and 17% GHG reduction from an Advanced PV installation.  Thermal and electric energy storage and off-site purchased PV/Wind energy can take the campus and any building to 100% Net Zero Carbon.

Once Advanced Thermal/Clean Power systems are fully implemented in all U.S. buildings, DOE/EPA data shows about 2.5B metric tons of CO2 equivalent per year will be saved (about 37% of national GHG total, figure below) and NREL reported data suggests 2.51B gal/day of water can be saved from electricity production alone, plus water savings from GHP's reduced chiller use.

As mentioned in the Summary above, NZ is an economic 4-way Win with wealth building in communities instead of multi-national corporations!

What are the proposal’s costs?

A basic premise of our Net Zero Carbon proposal is that we only undertake steps when they become "effectively free".  The figure shows the approximate current Cost/Benefit value of many RE/EE technologies.  All of the technologies to the right of the "Effectively free" vertical green line save more energy than they cost to install and finance.  Unsurprisingly, Weatherstripping and Double Pane windows are at the far right of the graph being most affordable, and Nuclear is currently at the far left being generally not affordable.

In the middle we find PV (photovoltaics) and GHP (Geothermal Heat Pumps) which are at the center of this proposal.  At this point in time, GHP is found to be "effectively free" in almost all circumstances -- certainly at MIT.  Thus, the GHP portion of this proposal has no cost component.

PV has not yet reached the "effectively free" point, but it is rapidly advancing in that direction.  It is our premise that PV will be fully "free" by the time we propose installing it at MIT.  This includes some specific breakthroughs we identify herein which significantly increase PV output.

The only portions of this proposal that have real costs associated with them are the optional later stages.  We do not recommend installation of those phases until they too become nearly effectively free.

Time line

The Net Zero Energy project contains 5 identified phases which in general fall into the following time periods (please see the main body for more detail):

Systems Installation Track:

Design: Site Analysis, Advanced Thermal System Modeling/Simulation/Design - Year 1

Phase 1: Advanced Thermal Systems Installation - Years 1 - 25

Phase 2: Advanced On-Campus PV Systems Installation - Years 2 - 26

Phase 3: Advanced Electric Battery Systems Installation - Years 10 - 35

Phase 4: Final Net Zero Carbon Conversion - Years 25 - 35


Research Track:

Net Zero Research:

Item 1: Net Zero Energy Economics - Continuous

Item 2: Full Net Zero Energy Conversion Modeling - Years 2+

Advanced Thermal Research:

Item 3: Drill Rig Silencing - Years 1 - 2

Item 4: Tuned Phase Change Energy Storage Pods - Years 1 - 5

Item 5: Thermal Systems Optimization Curriculum and Analysis - Years 3+

Advanced Electric Research/Analysis:

Item 6: Large Capacity Electric Battery R&D - Years 1 - 15

Item 7: Flat Tracking Solar PV Demonstration/Analysis - Years 2-4

Related proposals

This Net Zero Carbon proposal addresses both the MIT Climate Mitigation and Energy-Water Nexus competitions.  The proposals are exactly the same because Net Zero Carbon solves both sets of issues simultaneously.  A different Summary is given for each to highlight the connection and synergy.  Due to the short space available, the only complete proposal is under MIT Climate Mitigation Solutions, with a reduced version in Energy Water Nexus.

MIT Climate Mitigation Solutions:

Energy Water Nexus:

In a nutshell, this proposal eliminates all GHG from buildings, eliminates all water loss from electrical generation for buildings, and eliminates most if not all water loss from fluid chillers!


We cite the following major sources in addition to MIT's Plan and Update for Action on Climate Change:

[1] "A Plan for Action on Climate Change", MIT, October 21, 2015

[2] "Update on the Plan for Action on Climate Change", MIT, April 27, 2016


[4] "MIT Greenhouse Inventory Data - Basic Spreadsheet (2014-2015)", MIT Office of Sustainability

[5] "A Methodology for Assessing MIT's Energy Use and Greenhouse Gas Emissions", Tiffany Amber Groode, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, May 2004

[6] "Executive Order 13693 - Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade", President Obama, USA

[7] "Climate Bonds Taxonomy", Climate Bonds Initiative

[8] "Estimated U.S. Total Energy Consumption 2015", Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, March 2016, U.S. Department of Energy EIA (Energy Information Agency)

[9] "Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks:1990–2013", EPA 430-R-15-004, April 15, 2015

[10] "Natural Gas Consumption (Btu) and Energy Intensities by End Use for All Buildings, 2003", EIA, Table E7A, September 2008

[11] Consumptive Water Use for U.S. Power Production, December 2003, NREL/TP-550-33905, P. Torcellini, N. Long, and R. Judkoff

[12] "Net-Zero Energy Buildings: A Classification System Based on Renewable Energy Supply Options", Shanti Pless and Paul Torcellini, Technical Report NREL/TP-550-44586, June 2010

[13] "Geothermal HVAC Case Study Success in K-12 Schools and Nation’s Largest Net Zero School", 2014 IGSHPA Annual Conference Baltimore, Don Penn, PE, CGD, Image Engineering Group, Ltd.

[14] "Lady Bird Johnson Middle School - Irving, TX", 2013 IGSHPA Annual Conference Las Vegas, Don Penn, PE, CGD, Image Engineering Group, Ltd.

[15] "Performance of the HVAC Systems at the ASHRAE Headquarters Building", L.E. Southard, P.E., Xiaobing Liu, Ph.D., and J.D. Spitler, Ph.D., P.E.

[16] "A Local Law to amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to geothermal systems", enacted January 5, 2016

[17] "Rooftop Solar Photovoltaic Technical Potential in the United States: A Detailed Assessment", National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Technical Report NREL/TP-6A20-65298, January 2016

[18] "Germany Just Got Almost All of Its Power From Renewable Energy", Bloomberg, Jessica Shankleman, May 16, 2016

[19] Coming: 'MA Clean Energy Center Commercial Geothermal Rebate Program', MA CEC 2016

[20] "The Guide to Developing Solar Photovoltaics at Massachusetts Landfills", Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources

[21] "Voluntary Reporting of Greenhouse Gases Appendix F. Electricity Emission Factors", EIA

[22] "Campus Energy Independence", University of Wisconsin River Falls, 2008

[23] "What You Need to Know About the Paris Agreement", The Climate Reality Project

[24] "2014 Getting to Zero Status Update: A look at the projects, policies and programs driving zero net energy performance in commercial buildings", New Buildings Institute, 2014