The primary cost of net zero energy (NZE) retrofits come not from the products themselves, but from inefficiencies in the value chain, NYSERDA’s (New York State Energy and Research Development Authority’s) RetrofitNY team asserts, which is why the RetrofitNY initiative is currently focused on fostering delivery models that will reduce the cost of whole building retrofit solutions and draw companies into this market. And, indeed, signs of progress are becoming evident, as many in the industry are tackling these problems head-on and adopting business models and strategies that will allow them to bring to market low-cost whole building NZE retrofit solutions.
A key effort of the retrofit initiative has been characterizing the potential market for manufacturers. Disaggregating New York State’s building stock into a number of prevalent typologies would make it easier, the team realized, for manufacturers to see the potential market for each typology and to initiate the development of whole building solutions that are scalable across a particular typology. As a result of this insight, NYSERDA commissioned a market characterization study from Syracuse University and Pratt Institute that identified the prevalent typologies in New York State. This study is available on NYSERDA’s RetrofitNY website.
Another team insight was that a few key retrofit products are missing from the North American market. In October 2019 NYSERDA issued a solicitation to design and manufacture an energy pod that would combine efficient building mechanical systems into an all-in-one product. NYSERDA received a strong response to that solicitation that resulted in contracts with two manufacturers to develop energy pods for the New York State market. The first energy pods will be completing lab testing this year, and field testing will be conducted as part of a pilot demonstration project in 2022, with the goal of making them available on the market soon after that.
Both units will provide heating, cooling, ventilation, and domestic hot water in a single form factor. One team, led by Syracuse University, is adapting for New York State an existing all-in-one pod produced by the Italian manufacturer Clivet that is already available on the European market. The other pod is being domestically produced by a new startup, tkFabricate, also out of Syracuse. This effort is being led by the team who headed one of RetrofitNY’s pilot projects and who, inspired by their work there, saw the need for key NZE retrofit components and launched this startup to bring these to market.
A prefabricated retrofit panel is another critical product that is receiving NYSERDA support. In this case NYSERDA’s Advanced Buildings team, which the RetrofitNY team works closely with, released a solicitation in the fall of 2020 that included a challenge for panel solutions. NYSERDA received a number of very strong proposals and expects to announce the awards in the second quarter of 2021. The team anticipates new panel solutions to be introduced into the market in 2021 and 2022, in addition to those currently in the Advanced Buildings R&D pipeline.
Earlier in spring 2021 RetrofitNY released a series of Request For Qualifications (RFQLs) that serve as a gateway to the program for the next few years. The Solution Provider RFQL lays out a business model that fills an important need in the market. Companies that are qualified under the RFQLs will be eligible to participate in future RetrofitNY demonstration projects and gap funding solicitations.
With the release of these RFQLs, the RetrofitNY program has narrowed its focus to the technologies and business models most able to deliver a scalable NZE retrofit solution and result in a self-sufficient NZE retrofit industry. The program is currently focused on identifying the right industry partners that can implement the needed business models to aggressively drive cost compression and scale, deliver a viable proof of concept during the next round of pilots, and develop an early production ramp over the next few years.