Study of a solar-assisted air conditioning system for South Africa.
In South Africa, a significant amount of electrical energy is used for air conditioning in commercial buildings, on account of the high humidity experienced. Due to its geographical location, the levels of solar irradiation and the demand for air-conditioning of commercial buildings reach maximum levels simultaneously. The South African region daily solar radiation average varies between 4.5 and 6.5 kWh/m2 and when compared to the United States 3.6 kWh/m2 and Europe’s 2.5 kWh/m2 , solar thermal powered cooling technologies has significant potential as this solar irradiation is also available all year around . Utilizing solar energy for an air conditioning system has the advantage that the availability of solar radiation and the need for cooling reach maximum levels simultaneously and proportionally. This type of air conditioning system has an electrical energy saving benefit in light of increasing energy tariffs and the energy crisis currently facing Eskom in South Africa. Solar-assisted Absorption Cooling systems decreases the peak electricity consumption, is less noisy and vibration free, since it does not contain a compressor and this gives a higher reliability, low maintenance and its electricity consumption is approximately four times less (21.8kW versus 5.5kW for 35kW of Cooling) than that of an electric driven chiller containing a mechanical compressor . However, due to the high capital cost of solar powered air-conditioning plants, it is essential that a feasibility analysis be undertaken to indicate and establish a return on capital investment. The main objective of the present study is to investigate and establish the feasibility of a solar-assisted air-conditioning system based on Lithium Bromide and Water (LiBr/H2O) absorption chillers on a medium scale for commercial buildings in terms of energy saving and performance. This study presents the results of the experiment on a solar-assisted air-conditioning facility constructed and installed in October 2009 at Pretoria’s Netcare Moot Hospital. This study has confirmed that a payback period of 13 months can be achieved and the performance parameters of the manufacturer’s specifications for a solar-assisted air conditioning system are exceeded for the South African climate.