The retail sector is a voracious user of both energy and water, accounting for around 50 per cent of the Australian commercial property sector’s energy use, with around 60% of this sectors total energy use spent on heating, ventilation and air conditioning of commercial buildings.
A solar-powered commercial air conditioning system, developed with $520,000 of Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) support, is showing promise as a potential solution to this energy efficiency problem as the pilot cutting-edge system is built and successfully integrated into an operational commercial building for the first time.
Jointly managed by CSIRO with Stockland Group and NEP Solar, the $1.2 million, three-year pilot project, operating at the Stockland Wendouree Shopping Centre in Ballarat, Victoria reached its final ARENA milestone last month after seven months of operation at the site.
The system uses concentrating solar thermal technology to produce heat energy–150 degrees Celsius to 200 degrees Celsius– that is then used to power the air conditioning system of the shopping centre. The system adjusts the amounts of heating and cooling generated to match building needs of the building supplying space heating in winter, space cooling in summer all year round.
ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said ARENA is pleased to have partnered with CSIRO on this novel world-first technology.
“It is a step toward further improve the efficiency of solar thermal energy systems and storage to provide clean and reliable heating and cooling in Australian commercial buildings.”
Mr Frischknecht said, “ARENA is committed to supporting innovative projects like this, and to helping share the lessons learned amongst the wider RD&D sector, powering Australian renewable energy innovation well into the future.”
The CSIRO system addresses high energy consumption rates often found in large commercial spaces such as shopping centres and hotels due to their heating and cooling energy requirements. It uses a closed-loop system, with two ‘desiccant’ wheels work together to remove moisture from the air, acting as a dehumidifier. A high temperature wheel uses solar heat for regeneration while the low temperature wheel functions without any external heat to deliver greater efficiency on a commercial scale.
Like any new and innovative technology moving along the innovation chain, there have been significant challenges deploying this system on a commercial scale. If these challenges can be overcome, the technology could have potential to help increase the energy efficiency of heating and cooling commercial buildings.
CSIRO, along with its partners, will continue monitoring the operation of this pilot system over the next 12 months to establish the long-term commercial viability of the design.