Solar energy is commonly used to heat water, but in Queensland’s Bulloo Shire, it’s being utilised to cool a town’s water supply – and the project has helped the local council win an award.
The Shire of Bulloo is located in South West Queensland. It covers close to 74,000 km² and is home to a whopping population of around 350. Many of these folks live in Thargomindah, population ~270.
Thargomindah is situated over the Great Artesian Basin, one of the largest underground freshwater resources in the world.
In the late 1800’s, a bore was sunk to supply the town with water. A significant issue with the water is its temperature; around 72°C. At 60°C, it takes one second for hot water coming into contact with skin to cause third-degree burns.
Cooling towers and ponds were being used to reduce the temperature, but the decrease was only marginal and the system was also accompanied by significant costs associated with electricity and maintenance.
That’s now changed with the help of a solar power system featuring battery storage, the latter being important given the unreliable nature of mains electricity supply in remote communities. For example, Ergon Energy has scheduled maintenance on July 1 that will see Thargomindah’s power supply interrupted from 9am to 3pm.
Council’s new solar powered water cooling system, further technical details for which I wasn’t able to locate except for a bit of info on page 8 of the August 2020 Bulloo Buzz, now supplies the town with water at “refreshing 35 degrees Celsius”. UV lamps are also used in the system to ensure the storage tanks remain free from any biological growth.
The project was managed by Peak Services and supported with funding from the Queensland Government.
This little council is doing big things with PV. Last year Bulloo Shire Council commissioned solar installations across all its facilities – 23 of them. How a local government area with a population of just 350 has 23 council facilities may seem a bit odd, but it is a big area and there are offices, depots, tourism sites, an aerodrome, a swimming pool and water pumping stations among its assets.
For its efforts, Bulloo Shire Council has been named the winner in the Sustainability Category of the 2021 Queensland Local Government Awards for Excellence. It appears Council is a bit of a quiet and modest achiever, with not much mentioned about the solar rollout on its web site and at the time of writing it was still to acknowledge winning the award.
Solar Power Is Very Cool
Thargomindah’s experience is just one of many examples of how solar energy is changing – and improving – lives across rural and remote Australia as well as in our cities.
Another very interesting application where solar power is being used to cool water, but for a very different purpose, is at University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. More than 6,500 solar panels were installed across rooftops on campus along with a 4.5 megalitre water tank acting as a thermal energy storage device. The cooled water is used for air conditioning, which is the single biggest user of electricity at the campus.
Trivia: According to Peak Services, Thargomindah was the first town in Australia to generate hydro-electric power for street lighting through harnessing water pressure from the Artesian Basin – way back in 1891.