Energy auditor Steve Heaton has never been so glad to burn a finger while cooking.
While easing the pain under the kitchen tap, Heaton finally had the Eureka moment to a long-running puzzle – how to slash the financial and environmental costs of air conditioning units.
There are approximately 45 million AC systems in Australia, accounting for half the annual power bills, yet Heaton had discovered the technology had remained fundamentally unchanged for 50 years.
“The first thing I did when I burned my finger was wave it around in the air, and that’s what a conventional air conditioner does to cool down the refrigerant gas,” said Heaton.
“But when I finally stuck it under the cold water I felt so much better, and then I realised that the cold condensate water that’s being wasted down the drain with a conventional air conditioner could be utilised to help cool that refrigerant gas down.
“So, what we did is take that cold condensate water and use that to pre-cool that air before it goes across the condensing coil and sub-cooling the refrigerant gas before going through the expansion valve.”
The result is the IP Kinetik, a unit he developed in consultation with Sydney PhD student Vahid Vakiloroaya that be easily retro-fitted to any model, whether it be a small household system, right through to a commercial size air cool chiller.
By recycling the waste water – the average 7kW system uses up to 10 litres per hour – the IP Kinetik saves up to 43% in power, and reduces CO2 emissions by up to 50%.
Expansion plans heat up
The unit has already attracted massive interest across Australia – Qantas, Telstra and BHP are marquee adopters – and its makers are now looking to the global market.
Heaton’s Melbourne-based company Independent Products franked its readiness for expansion by winning the prestigious Smart Cities Award at last year’s Australian Technologies Competition, where it was named Australian Technology Company of the Year.
“We aim to find the best companies, provide them with the best mentoring possible and connect them with global partners. We want to help create multi-billion-dollar global success stories,” said competition organiser John O’Brien.
Meanwhile, Adelaide-based advanced battery expert, 1414 Degrees, has announced it has created a revolutionary new battery that could fast-track the energy source as a viable renewable.
Its silicon model costs a fraction of lithium-ion cells, and stores up to 36 times more energy in the same space.
Cheaper and greener than Tesla
Chairman Kevin Moriarty told the Australian Financial Review the company can build a 10MWh storage device for about $700,000. The equivalent Tesla Powerwall 2s that would be needed to store the same amount of energy would cost ten times as much, he says.
Sourcing its silicon raw material from a by-product from smelting metal quartz ore, the use of silicon also addresses environmental concerns surrounding lithium ion cells.
The device stores electrical energy by, initially, heating and melting a block of pure silicon at an extremely high 1414 degree Celsius, hence the name.
Once molten, the heat held can be harnessed by turbines to convert the heat energy back to electrical energy. Any waste heat is re-used to heat the block.
1414 Degrees now hopes its new molten silicon will also prove the technological breakthrough needed to make wind and solar farms viable Down Under, reports Motoring.com.au.
In a heavily over-subscribed offer, a recent seed funding round raised $2.5 million, which Moriarty said would allow 1414 Degrees to speed up its first commercial applications of the thermal energy storage systems (TESS).
“We have selected a site for our first 10MWh machine and are evaluating potential for 200MWh installations.
“At the same time, we are using our successful prototype to test components for the larger TESS,” he added.
The money is also being used to prepare for the IPO and listing on the ASX, which is scheduled for mid-2017.