UC engineers win top energy award

02 February 2011

A University of Canterbury engineering research project targeting energy efficiencies at Scott Base has been recognised with the presentation of a One Energy Award.

A University of Canterbury engineering research project targeting energy efficiencies at Scott Base has been recognised with the presentation of a One Energy Award.

The One Energy Awards, administered by global energy management specialist Schneider Electric New Zealand, encourage and recognise innovative research projects that achieve measurable energy efficiencies and advance professional development in the field of sustainable energy management.

UC's winning "Energy Freeze" project was commissioned and sponsored by Antarctica New Zealand under the guidance of Associate Professor Susan Krumdieck (Mechanical Engineering).

The recipients of this award include UC Bachelor of Engineering honours graduates Jeremy Todd and Shane Eglinton and the University of Canterbury Department of Mechanical Engineering.

The Energy Freeze project team initially audited and analysed energy use dynamics at Scott Base, focusing on the energy cost of human-related activity and how, through positive behavioural change, energy efficiencies could be achieved.

Jeremy and Shane said they found water production on the ice to be one of the most energy-intensive functions but soon realised that even small changes in behaviour could have a significant impact on sustainability at the base.

Their challenge was to reduce water demand through improved social awareness. This has been achieved in part through the development of a "Sustainable Energy Protocol Package" - a mix of strategies that includes real-time energy monitoring at the base and an interactive software package that is now part of the formal induction process for all visitors to Scott Base.

Shane said the research team provided a design for a central energy-use display screen at Scott Base providing real-time data on water, electricity and thermal energy use at the base at any given time.

"This was at the design stage at the conclusion of the research project but I was able to take the concept to a semi-working prototype during a six-month summer employment contract with Antarctica New Zealand. This provided the opportunity to automate data outputs from Scott Base's Building Management System (BMS) and graph this information into the base's building management website."

He said the reports generated will better enable Antarctica New Zealand to monitor and understand energy use at every stage and identify inefficiencies and anomalies in energy consumption.

Jeremy said the project's design of an interactive software program called MySustain Report is now part of Antarctica New Zealand's formal induction process for visitors to Scott Base.

"The program essentially raises visitor awareness of energy dynamics at the base and collects information about visitor's expectations and energy-use behaviour prior to travelling to the ice."

This has had an immediate and measurable impact on personal water usage with Antarctica New Zealand reporting an almost 50 per cent drop in personal water consumption from 120 litres per day to just 70 litres per day.

"This is a significant saving and a rewarding outcome for the research team and Antarctica New Zealand. We believe there is still considerable potential to further reduce energy use and improve sustainability at the base," Jeremy said.

Jeremy and Shane have both gained full-time employment in energy-related fields. Jeremy now works as a mechanical engineer with the Auckland-based nanotechnology start-up company Revolution Fibres and Shane has joined the Energy Division at Aurecon Consultants based in Wellington.

Professor Krumdieck said the One Energy Award would raise the profile and the College's ability to attract research sponsors for final-year engineering projects.

"We are delighted that this research project has been recognised with a One Energy Award because Antarctica New Zealand has been a particularly good sponsor and the project outcomes are having a measurable impact.

"It is rewarding to see graduates like Shane and Jeremy go on to secure rewarding careers in their chosen energy field."

Professor Krumdieck said the award would contribute to the costs of final-year energy audit field trips to the University's research facility near Arthur's Pass.

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