Maintaining the temperature of large buildings uses a huge amount of energy, but a new system at The University of Queensland’s Gatton campus is doing just this, while using a fraction of the electricity.
The Ground Source Heat Pump (GSHP) running at the Gatton Library is a public demonstration that this system can efficiently cool buildings – even during sweltering Queensland summers.
Dr Aleks Atrens from UQ’s School of Mechanical and Mining Engineering said the system functions the same as an air-conditioning unit.
“Like an AC system, it uses a vapour compression cycle to transfer heat,” Dr Atrens said.
“But instead of the heat being transferred into the outside air, it is moved underground where temperatures are constant throughout the year.
“It is about 23 degrees Celsius underground in Brisbane all year-round.”
The GSHP is set up to measure operational data using an extensive ground-temperature monitoring system, with data on display at the Gatton Library and online.
“While these systems are popular overseas, they haven’t quite caught on in Australia,” said Dr Atrens.
“Since its construction in January this year, the Gatton GSHP has provided 51 megawatt-hours of cooling, the equivalent of cooling an average Brisbane house for approximately three-and-a-half years.”
The Gatton GSHP will be officially opened on Thursday 14 July by Queensland Energy Minister Mark Bailey, UQ Pro Vice-Chancellor Professor Alan Rix, UQ School of Mechanical and Mining Engineering Head of School Professor David Mee, and Queensland Geothermal Energy Centre of Excellence Independent Chair Professor Trevor Grigg.
“The project has been running for six months, and we will need a full year of data so we can compare it to a conventional system and explore the relationship between performance and different operating modes,” Dr Atrens said.
According to researchers from the UQ Geothermal Energy Centre of Excellence, the other advantage of this technology is it is less obtrusive than conventional systems, only requiring small holes in the ground for heat exchange.
There are currently two different designs of the GSHP unit operating at Gatton Library, allowing researchers to determine the most effective design.