Thermal Energy Storage with Phase Change Materials - Shifts Loads, Saves Energy, Costs Less


Energy storage has been around since shortly after man harnessed fire. A pile or stack of wood is stored energy waiting to be used. More recently, for hundreds of years, ice was harvested from ponds and lakes for preserving foods through the summer and shoulder seasons. Electricity eliminated the need for ice harvesting and storage.

Coming full circle, a nascent industry is emerging to store the benefits of electricity, consuming it to ‘charge’ storage materials when electricity prices are low and discharge the storage materials when electricity prices are high. The storage materials of choice are phase change materials (PCMs). PCMs have a great capacity to release and absorb heat (refrigeration) at a wide range of temperatures from frozen food warehouses at minus 20 degrees Farenheit to occupied room temperatures. These wide-ranging phase change materials offer an enormous opportunity to shift loads in ’grid-interactive, efficient buildings‘ (GIBs) in which PCMs do the same thing as batteries or other storage technologies, but at a small fraction of the cost. These technologies are in the pre-emerging technology phase of market adoption, but the author/presenter believes they will become widely accepted due to their flexibility, cost-effectiveness, simplicity, zero moving parts, longevity, and non-invasiveness. Join us as we explore the potential of PCMs!


Jeffrey Ihnen


Michaels Energy

Jeff started on the ground floor with Michaels in January 1996 doing energy audits and feasibility studies. He worked his way into managing the energy efficiency practices and, for the last several years, the entire company. Jeff’s current responsibilities as Chief Executive Officer include program, evaluation, proposal and sales strategy, as well as discovering the next big thing. Jeff earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from South Dakota State University. He spent four and a half years in the Naval Nuclear Propulsion program earning a Master’s of Nuclear Engineering (classified). Before joining Michaels, Jeff earned a Master of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.