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Aussie innovators set to shine on world stage

A team of students from the University of Wollongong (UOW) are set to compete in the Solar Decathlon 2018 in Dubai.

The Solar Decathlon is an international competition with the backing of the US Department of Energy. It challenges collegiate teams to design, construct and operate solar-powered houses that are sustainable, stylish and cost effective.

In 2013, a team from the University of Wollongong (UOW) won the Solar Decathlon China. This year the Decathlon is in Dubai in November, and UOW is competing again with the Desert Rose House.

Hot competition

Student Leader and Project Manager Clayton McDowell says the location will pose a big challenge.

“Dubai is extremely hot, humid and sandy,” he says. “For the vast majority of the year air conditioning is required both night and day to provide a comfortable thermal environment. But the peak demand is obviously during the day when the sun is shining.

“For this competition we have designed our house to minimise the external heat gains as much as possible. And we’ve designed an innovative HVAC system to meet the cooling demands with the least amount of energy.”

The team has employed a Daikin air-to-water heat pump, which can generate chilled or hot water. This system is coupled with a water-based thermal energy storage using phase change materials. To assist with the latent loads they are also using a commercial heat pump desiccant unit, again from Daikin.

Another challenge is the incredibly tight schedule. Teams build their houses on home soil, then dismantle, pack and transport them to Dubai, and have just 15 days to reassemble them.

“But Team UOW managed to do it last time,” says McDowell, “so we are confident we can do it again.”

Sneak preview

This weekend the project will reach a major milestone, with a public opening of the Desert Rose House at the UOW Innovation Campus. The team will take visitors on a tour of the house from 9am-4pm on Saturday, July 21 and from 10am-2pm on Sunday, July 22.

The reveal is part of a festival celebrating sustainability, which will also feature talks, foods stalls and kids’ activities.

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