District cooling heads east and south

Date: 4 March 2015

The connection of the huge Emirates Towers development in Dubai to the district cooling (DC) system operated locally by Empower recently illustrates the sheer size of the DC industry in the Middle East.

The two towers, which reach 355 and 309 m into the Gulf sky, have had their old air-cooled systems replaced by a connection to the Empower DC system of up 6,000 refrigeration tonnes (RT) of cooling capacity.

The Emirates Towers project is part of a larger scheme that will see Empower, the largest DC provider in the world, connecting another 30,000 RT of capacity to commercial and residential properties in the city. The same company already operates systems with a cooling capacity of 1 million RT. DC is also big business in Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

While the Middle East undoubtedly dominates the global DC market, I have seen a number of announcements of new systems being developed in cities of Australia. Environmental services company Veolia has won a contract to operate a new district cooling scheme at a major commercial/residential complex being developed at Barangaroo South, Sydney. Meanwhile, the city of Brisbane, through its sustainable energy agency CitySmart, is developing a DC system of up to 24,000 tonnes capacity for its central business district. District energy system operator Cofely Australia and engineers Thiess Australia will implement the project – which will be the largest yet built in the country.

Cofely Australia’s chief executive noted that, while large-scale DC systems are new to the country, district cooling already operates there at a smaller scale, typically serving campus universities and hospitals.

The largest DC system in Europe is the Climespace scheme in Paris which, first opened in 1991, delivers cooling to 500 customers in city each year. And, while DC has been used in Australia and the Middle East for a decade or so, the technology is more than 50 years old in the US, where the first scheme was built in Hartford, Connecticut.

Yet current growth in the Middle East far surpasses that for any other region of the world, with Singapore cited as another growth area, along with several other cities of South East Asia, and Korea. The efficiency and economic advantages of the technology are so clear that, wherever the migration of populations to ever larger cities takes place, DC has to be an attractive option.

Source: COSPP