A rare solar air-conditioning system was unveiled Wednesday at the Arizona National Guard Papago Park Military Reservation in Phoenix, which developers hope will lead to wider use of a technology that could drastically reduce demand for energy from the Valley’s electricity grid.
The $200,000 system at the Ecobuilding at the Papago Park complex was installed by Salt River Project and the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs.
They hope to learn from the demonstration project how to make the solar air-conditioning technology less costly and more commercially viable, said Lori Singleton, SRP’s manager of sustainability initiatives and technologies.
“We had to do some redesign as we went along. So it is a project that is not commercially ready today. But … this is a great project to try to advance the technology and learn more about it,” she said.
The two partners contracted with Berquam Energy Systems of Sacramento, Calif., to design and install the system, which SRP will maintain.
Solar panels provide a source of heat to drive the cooling process.
Hot water is utilized by an absorption chiller to evaporate processed water under a vacuum to produce cold water.
The chilled water is piped to an air handler, and cool air is blown into the building.
The system will produce less than half of the total cooled air needed in the building, Singleton said. However, with air conditioning consuming about half the electricity used by a typical home during the summer months, any technology that can reduce that power drain would save consumers substantial amounts of money, she said.
“We are going to spend the next year investigating the actual energy savings of the system,” she said.
With most solar-energy systems used to produce either electricity or hot water, solar air conditioning is very rare in Arizona.
Arizona Public Service operates two installations, one at Lake Pleasant north of Phoenix and the other at Cochise College in Douglas.
The Lake Pleasant system, the first in the state, was installed at the Desert Outdoor Center, an education center, in April 2006. It reduces the overall electrical consumption of the building by about 25 percent, said Dawna Taylor, public information officer for the Maricopa County Parks and Recreation Department.
Visitors who have reservations for events at the building can view the system in operation, Taylor said.