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Solar Air Conditioning: The Future of Energy Efficient Air Conditioning?

The global focus on efficiency and clean energy is creating some impressive developments around the world, and a renewable approach to air conditioning is definitely of interest to us.

This month, we’re taking a look at the development of solar powered air conditioning and how one company in Australia is striving to improve the way in which large scale commercial buildings are heated and cooled.


Australian organisation CSIRO (the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) has developed and unveiled a solar-powered air conditioning system designed to cool Australian homes and commercial buildings with greater efficiency.

CSIRO developed the system as a means to address the high energy consumption of large commercial spaces such as shopping centres and hotels, whose heating and cooling requirements eat up around 60 per cent of their total energy usage.

The project cost $1.2 million, $520,000 of which was provided by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), and looks to become an effective way of making commercial and residential air conditioning much more efficient and environmentally friendly for the future.

How the system works

The energy efficient system uses concentrating thermal technology to produce the heat energy needed to power the air conditioning system. The air conditioner is a closed-loop system, meaning it needs no external air to cool or heat the air inside the building. A pair of desiccant (drying) wheels act as dehumidifiers to remove moisture from the air.

CSIRO unveiled the system which is installed on top of a major shopping center in Australia. The system is designed using trough shaped collectors which capture solar heat of around 150-200° C, and stores it in a 2,000 litre thermal oil tank. Heat from the tank is used to heat the shopping center’s ambient air in the cold winter, while in the summer powers an indirect evaporative cooler.

The results so far have been promising, and development and continued research of the technology looks to drive down costs of renewable technologies in the future. Not only does the system provide dramatically improved energy efficiency, the roof space required for the technology can be 40% less than traditional systems.


The system developed by CSIRO was a three year project, and will be closely monitored over the next 12 months to properly assess its long term performance, and hopefully establish further investment to allow expanded commercial air conditioning support. This will help provide Australia with a low emissions future if all goes well.

The technology certainly seems to have the potential for improving the efficiency of commercial air conditioning, and will likely become more attractive around the world as more evidence of its effectiveness is revealed over time.

CSIRO’s system is expected to significantly reduce electricity usage of commercial air conditioning units, and if widely adopted by large scale commercial buildings, will certainly have a substantial impact on general emission levels.

Although, with only one example of the technology in the wild, it will likely be some time before the technology is adopted and installed around the globe, but the success so far is certainly an encouraging sign.

Conditioned Environment are the leading suppliers of air conditioning services throughout Central London. With over 45 years of experience in the industry, we have a wealth of experience in supplying, installing and maintaining air conditioning units in a wide variety of commercial sectors. Our systems are designed with great care, built to provide the most efficient and cost-effective results possible. To find out more about the air conditioning services we provide, don’t hesitate to contact us today.

Image Credit

CSIRO via Wikimedia Commons