A novel solar thermal air-conditioning system developed by the CSIRO, that uses energy from concentrated heat from the sun to cool large commercial spaces, has been installed at the Stockland Wendouree Shopping Centre in Ballarat.

The system addresses the high energy consumption of air-conditioning large commercial spaces, such as shopping centres and hotels, where heating and cooling requirements account for around 60% of total energy use.

The technology is the result of a $1.2 million project jointly managed by CSIRO with Stockland Group and NEP Solar, and with $520,000 in funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency. The project aims to advance the concentrating solar thermal technology towards commercialisation.

It consists of a closed-loop system which uses two ‘desiccant’ wheels to remove moisture from the air. A high-temperature wheel uses solar heat for regeneration while a low temperature wheel functions, without any external heat, to deliver greater efficiency on a commercial scale.

Solar trough collectors power the system which stores heat stored in a thermal oil tank.