While most Australians are taking care to shield themselves from the harsh summer heat this year, scientists from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) Energy Transformed Flagship are working on ways to harness the sun's warmth to cool their homes and offices.
The leader of the Flagship's solar cooling research project, Dr Stephen White, has shown significant greenhouse gas savings can be achieved in air conditioning by using energy from the sun. Solar cooling utilises heat from solar thermal collectors to generate cooling for building air-conditioning. Most conventional mechanical air conditioners use high-emission electricity derived from fossil fuels to provide the energy to compress a refrigerant and cool a building. This typically accounts for 20-30 per cent of building energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
The solar cooling technology CSIRO are developing directly uses the natural heat from the sun to power a thermally-driven cooling process. Solar cooling has the potential to reduce peak demand on the electricity grid by reducing the amount of electricity that is required to meet those air conditioning demands on the hottest days of the Australian summer. With the sun being one of the countries most abundant renewable resources, it is also the reason for the high-energy demand in the summer.
Solar cooling technology is ideally suited to their climate and as the technology develops, it is likely to make an important contribution to the development of future zero-emissions buildings. When the units go into production, they hope to send the technology all around the world. Part of this work is the production of printed solar cells that will be subject of another article here at Green Ghost.