Solar power makes air con more efficient on a commercial scale

28 September 2016

In a world first, the CSIRO has officially unveiled Ballarat Shopping Centre’s rooftop solar thermal system. It is the first of its kind and is the latest in solar-powered air conditioning technology for commercial buildings.

The $1.2 million project, developed with a $520,000 grant from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), uses a solar thermal system that will help reduce the Australian retail sector’s huge energy bills, and work towards achieving greater energy efficiency. Heating and cooling makes up around 60 per cent of total energy usage in commercial spaces such as shopping centres and hotels.

The air conditioning unit has been operating successfully at the Stockland Wendouree Shopping Centre in Ballarat for around nine months.

It operates via a closed-loop system that uses two “desiccant” wheels to remove moisture from the air. Solar heat powers a high temperature wheel for regeneration, and powers the air conditioning system, reducing the heat of the dehumidified air. A low temperature wheel operates without external heat, delivering greater efficiency on a commercial scale. This technology can be used year round for heating in winter and cooling in summer, as well as providing hot water 365 days a year.

The space required for this system can be as much as 40 per cent less than a regular single-stage desiccant system, even allowing for the solar troughs used to power the system and the thermal oil tank that stores heat.

CSIRO is committed to pioneering new technologies that help drive down the cost of renewable technologies, and accelerate the transition to a lower-emissions future for Australia.


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