UTS’s new Engineering and IT building has become instantly recognisable as the gateway to Sydney’s southern CBD. However, its environmental credentials are probably less well known.
Opening this month, the faculty’s new home will be the first UTS building to offset its energy usage from renewables. The building will self-generate 20 per cent of its energy from its roof – also the location of cutting-edge research into solar thermal technology.
The rooftop of the building on Broadway is a veritable nexus of renewable energy technology, collectively called a co-generation plant – meaning multiple sources of energy working collectively to produce electricity, air-conditioning and heating for the building. These include a vertical axis wind turbine, an Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) turbine, 20 solar water panels, 74 photovoltaic solar panels and a series of solar parabolic troughs, also known as solar thermal concentrators.
As one of the first institutions to use solar thermal concentrators on a commercial scale, UTS will collaborate with RMIT University, Standards Australia and Solem Consulting to deliver the first Australian Standard for industrial scale use of this technology.
Funded by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, the 18-month industry acceleration initiative will begin in late June.
The experiments will be based around the solar thermal concentrators and ORC turbine, which operate as a co-generation plant using water and sunlight.
Water is heated via the solar thermal concentrators. The heated water then generates electricity via the ORC turbine. The wastewater from the turbine is fed into an air-conditioning chiller heat exchanger to create chilled water to air-condition the building. Finally, the wastewater from the chiller is fed into a hot water tank that augments the building’s hot water for domestic use.
“This system is instrumental in verifying these Australian Standards before Standards Australia approves the process,” says Research Laboratories Manager Ray Clout, who is overseeing the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology part of the project. “We will run a series of tests over a period of a year, gather the data and verify those standards.”
The research team will also develop a software tool to allow industry to model the renewable energy technology for their needs and predict energy savings prior to installation.
“This means energy managers, vendors and end users can virtually see whether their desired model is not only financially viable, but meets their specific energy needs,” says Clout.
“The result is an easier, quicker and cheaper method to identify, specify and correctly install industrial scale solar thermal systems.”
Only one UTS researcher and one UTS PhD will student will be selected to work with Clout as the UTS representatives on the initiative, and Clout predicts “a mad rush of people trying to get on the list to be involved”.
“This equipment set-up is the first of its kind. There is no other institute we know of that has a co-generation plant as a living part of the building.”