Australia's HVACR sector has the expertise to exploit solar heating and cooling technologies but uptake remains low due to high start-up costs, according to AIRAH.

Speaking at AIRAH's Solar Cooling and Heating Forum in Brisbane earlier this month, AIRAH executive manager, Phil Wilkinson, listed a number of barriers to the uptake of solar technology.

“Barriers include high initial costs and split incentives, a lack of awareness of the benefits, weaknesses in supply chain and workforce competitiveness, and perceived technical and financial risks,” he said.

With the right support, Wilkinson said these challenges can be overcome especially with the release of an industry roadmap which was unveiled at the event.

More than 60 delegates participated in the event where Subbu Sethuvenkatraman unveiled the roadmap known as the Promoting the Use of Solar Cooling and Heating (PUSCH) project.

Supported by the CSIRO, Coolgaia and AIRAH, the PUSCH project found that despite Australia being a pioneer in solar cooling and heating, and initiatives such as the Renewable Energy Target, there was still more work to do to promote solar technologies.

PUSCH recommended developing standard and best-practice designs, a uniform way of measuring energy savings, performance guarantee contracts and large-contract frameworks. This would involve support in the form of energy performance contracts (EPCs) and environment upgrade agreements (EUAs).

The need for industry and government support was echoed by Mark Hooper, whose presentation on the solar chiller systems at Echuca Regional Health was well received.
Hooper talked extensively about solar thermal technology.

“The market in Australia is mature, and the business cases stack up,” Hooper said. “But in order for solar thermal to grow in stature it needs mechanisms that will help take it from demonstration to business-as-usual.

“The Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme and equivalent initiatives need to be opened up to this form of technology, so renewables that contribute to an offset of gas or electrical consumption are supported – not just those that produce electricity.”

The forum also showcased some major solar success stories. Terry Sullavan from Aalborg CSP presented a case study on the Sundrop project in Port Augusta, South Australia, a tomato farm that became the first large-scale concentrated solar power (CSP) plant in the world to provide multiple energy streams for horticultural use.

“The message we’d like to convey, is that the project was delivered on time, on budget, and is fully operational,” Sullavan said.

Fraser Property's sustainability development manager, Andrew Thai, delivered the keynote.

“The key takeaway was that not one company or individual or country will have a solution to the climate challenge. We require a collaborative approach with all stakeholders,” he said.

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