Town Hall House trigeneration

The City of Sydney will produce its own low-carbon energy for power, heating and cooling at Sydney Town Hall and its staff offices after Council approved a tender for a trigeneration plant in Town Hall House.

The project will contribute to Sustainable Sydney 2030 by reducing the City’s annual carbon emissions by 3 per cent and reducing energy bills for Town Hall and Town Hall House by an average of $320,000 per year over the life of the project. 

The trigeneration plant will also improve the NABERS energy efficiency rating of Town Hall House from 3.5 to 4.5 stars.

Trigeneration is more than twice as efficient as coal-fired power stations that produce around 80% of Sydney's electricity – heat by-products created at coal-fired power stations are wasted but trigeneration captures and uses them for air-conditioning, heating and hot water services.

The City has received a grant of $3.05 million from the Federal Government’s Community Energy Efficiency Program for the project.

Design and construction will begin in early 2016 and the plant will become operational by mid-2016.  

How trigeneration works

The 'tri' in trigeneration refers to 3 simultaneous outputs from the gas-fired engines, low-carbon electricity, hot water to heat buildings and chilled water to cool buildings.

A trigeneration engine runs on natural or renewable gases producing low-carbon electricity. The engine, which is about the size of a shipping container, generates heat that is captured to make hot water.

Hot water can be converted to chilled water for air-conditioning by a secondary piece of equipment called an absorption chiller. Hot water or chilled water, called thermal energy, can be distributed to nearby buildings through a network of underground pipes.

Trigeneration saves money

Trigeneration is an extremely efficient decentralised energy technology where electricity is made near where it is used, avoiding the need to bring electricity over long distances. It replaces coal-fired electricity and reduces emissions from connected buildings.

Producing energy locally helps avoid expensive upgrades to the NSW electricity grid of poles and wires which have pushed up power prices.

Consumers are forced to pay for upgrades to an aging and inefficient network that moves coal-fired electricity from the Hunter Valley to Sydney.

The worldwide trend

Trigeneration is not new.

The first public electricity supply in the world was the cogeneration system, implemented by Edison in 1882 to supply electricity and steam to Manhattan.

This was later converted to a trigeneration system and is now the eighth largest decentralised energy network in the world.

Many European cities have been retrofitted with decentralised energy networks including Berlin, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki, Vienna, Hamburg, Gothenburg, Paris, Moscow, St Petersburg, Turin, Barcelona and London.

In the Asia/Pacific region, Seoul has the third largest decentralised energy network in the world.

Last updated: Thursday, 22 October 2015