Cooling an entire building is anything but inexpensive. Not only does it consume a huge amount of energy, but also eats up a huge chunk of your finances. Depending on the size of a commercial building, your utility bills could be your biggest overhead. So there’s no such thing as “no sweat” under the circumstances.
Unfortunately, there is no way to operate a building without an air conditioning system, especially during the summer months. Unless it is designed to be open-air or where the use of a cooling equipment is impractical. But due to the increasing heat generated from the use of IT equipment, air conditioning is still used by organizations, regardless if it consumes a lot of energy, or that it has carbon emissions of up to 100%. There are repercussions to a poorly cooled environment. So you swallow it up and hope that the cost of utility bills will drop.
But this might not be the case for long.
A solar breakthrough
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Australia has unveiled a solar breakthrough that powered air-conditioning system. With the sun as the source of energy, you can cut down on electricity consumption and carbon emissions. The solar-powered air-conditioning system also contributes to energy efficiency.
According to CSIRO Energy director Peter Mayfield, it will be “driving down costs of renewable technologies, accelerating the transition to a lower-emissions future”.
For huge commercial buildings, this breakthrough offers major advantages, especially where overhead costs are concerned. It is designed to reduce their heating and cooling energy requirements, which is currently around 60% in total.
The closed-loop system relies on concentrating solar thermal technology in producing heat energy that will be used to power air conditioners. It uses two desiccant wheels that serve as a dehumidifier, removing moisture from the air. One wheel with high temperature uses solar heat to regenerate, while the other one with low temperature is responsible for delivering greater efficiency without the need for external heat.
The source of solar energy will come from the roof-mounted concentrating solar thermal collectors. The trough collectors will then store heat in a thermal oil tank, which is then used to power the air conditioning system.
The thermal collectors doesn’t require a lot of roof space. In fact, it will occupy 40% less space than a traditional single stage desiccant system. Yet, the advantages that a solar heat-driven desiccant air conditioning system offers are two-fold. It feeds humidity-controlled fresh air into a commercial building, while significantly reducing the usage of HVAC electricity. Offices, shopping centers, hotels, mixed-use buildings and the likes will surely benefit from a solar-powered air-conditioning system.
This project was partially funded by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), and managed by CSIRO, along with an NEP Solar and Stockland Group.
Due to the success of the research, ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht has expressed his happiness with the organization’s partnership with CSIRO, and boasts of the potential of the solar breakthrough to “further improve the efficiency of solar thermal energy systems”.