CSIRO developed a world-first ‘firm’ solar energy system to reliably reduce the impacts of peak demand by tackling air conditioner electrical consumption, which is the primary cause of peak demand in Australian electricity networks.
Significant challenges regarding the reliability and performance of commercial components were experienced during this project. These challenges were compounded by i) the distance between the project team and the trial sites; and; ii) equipment sourced from overseas which contributed to significant equipment supply, fault identification and resolution and communication challenges.
Renewable energy solutions can benefit the homeowner while helping to reduce pressure on the electricity grid and ensuring customer comfort.
CSIRO developed a world-first ‘firm’ solar energy system to reliably reduce the impacts of peak demand (periods of high electricity use) by tackling air conditioner electrical consumption, which is the primary cause of peak demand in Australian electricity networks.
Unlike other solar cooling systems this ‘firm’ system can guarantee a certain electrical appearance to the grid by displacing no less than a given amount of conventional air-conditioning power consumption.
The project combined CSIRO’s solar cooling technology for homes, which is powered by heat from sunlight, with a new solar energy management (SEM) system and natural gas-powered back-up.
This technology was developed with Australian manufacturer GWA Group and trialed with electricity network operator Ergon Energy.
In addition to providing occupants with solar-powered air-conditioning this renewable technology reduces the amount of electrical power drawn from the grid for air-conditioning during peak times. This can benefit the wider electricity grid while also providing a renewable, continuous and reliable source of air-conditioning for the home.
The project developed a SEM controller which monitors the operation of conventional electrical air-conditioning, manages the solar air conditioner and can respond to requests from the electricity grid operator for help when the grid is under stress.
If a request is received, the SEM controller can switch from using conventional cooling to solar-powered air-conditioning (supported by gas back-up if required), using CSIRO’s solar cooling technology. This switch occurs automatically and does not require intervention from the resident.
This new technology was tested in three residential buildings in Townsville, trialed the solar air-conditioning technology and evaluated the performance of the SEM controller in responding to electricity grid issues.
The trial included obtaining occupant feedback, identifying requirements for developing a commercial product and determined suitability for widespread deployment to electricity grid operation.
Unlike other solar and conventional air-conditioning approaches this technology allows for 24/7 operation and assists operators in managing the electricity grid while ensuring customer comfort.
The project developed, manufactured and tested a residential pre-deployment prototype solar desiccant air conditioner capable of providing space heating, space cooling, hot water and fresh conditioned air to indoor spaces