Clever campus cooling system shines again

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Dennis Frost, winner of the ACTS Award of Staff Excellence, in front of solar panels at USC

Within weeks of claiming a major global environmental award, USC Australia’s creative use of solar energy to cool its Sunshine Coast campus has shone again in the Australasia region.

The system, dubbed the ‘water battery’, was developed in partnership with resource management company Veolia. With 6,000 solar panels and a thermal energy storage tank that chills water for air conditioning, it has cut campus grid energy use by 40 percent.

In October, the system won the prestigious Out of the Box category of the Global District Energy Climate Awards in Iceland.

Last week, it was a finalist in a Climate Action category of the 2019 Green Gown Awards Australasia (which recognises the sustainability initiatives of universities and colleges) in Dunedin, New Zealand.

While USC did not win the category award, its Manager of Energy and Infrastructure Dennis Frost was awarded the ACTS Award of Staff Excellence for his leadership on the project.

USC Vice-Chancellor Professor Greg Hill said Mr Frost was the driving force behind the project, establishing a fruitful partnership with Veolia and a business model that would deliver the infrastructure to USC at no cost for a decade.

“It was Dennis’s determination that brought this project to life,” Professor Hill said.

“We did not have budget for this project, so he sat down with Veolia to negotiate an arrangement in which they built the system and we buy back the energy at a rate cheaper than from the grid, until the infrastructure transfers to us in 10 years.”

Professor Hill said the energy solution was switched on in August and had already gained global attention as a new approach to reducing grid energy use and a key part of USC’s goal to be carbon neutral by 2025.
 
“The world has really taken notice since we won the Out of the Box category of the Global District Energy Climate Awards in October, and we’ve seen interest spread rapidly across the world,” Professor Hill said.

“This is because it’s not simply a solar project. We’ve found a way to circumvent the need for traditional solar batteries, which require replacement more regularly. The most exciting part is that people are asking us how we did it, and how they can do it too.”

The annual Green Gown Awards recognise the exceptional sustainability initiatives being undertaken by universities and colleges.

Queensland Energy Minister Dr Anthony Lynham officially announced the USC project completion in August.

More about the system is available here.

Drone footage of the facility is available for download here.

Other footage available for download here.

PDF explainer of how the system works here.

USC’s Carbon Management Plan to be carbon neutral by 2025 is here.

 
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