Cogenra tests solar cogeneration tech for cooling things off

Demo project with SoCalGas will use solar energy to power energy generation and to run chillers and air-conditioners.

Most of us equate solar power with solar thermal applications for heating water and for energy generation, either as a peak offset or for handling some small portion of a building's electricity needs.

But a demonstration project by Cogenra Solar and Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) will focus on other applications for solar energy, in particular, the ability of its solar technology to help cool things off.

The new project at the SoCalGas Energy Resource Center will use heat created by Cogenra's solar cogeneration technology as a power source for running the building's absorption chillers and air-conditioning systems. This will help reduce the grid electricity that needs to be devoted to these functions during peak demand periods.

Cogenra's technology does its by capturing energy not used for electricity generation and storing it in water. It turns out the heated water can be applied to run mechanical chillers, an application that SoCalGas will test in coming months.

The panels being used to run the demo installation offer a 50.2-kilowatt capacity on the rooftop of the SoCalGas building, which can accommodate up to 700 people.

Cogenra is pitching its approach as another way for businesses to help justify hybrid commercial projects. The cogeneration technology could also be applied to other cleaning and facility process applications, the company said.