UNE wins large grant for solar-heating project

Published 28 October 2008

pool.jpgThe 30,000 users of the University of New England’s indoor swimming pool will soon be kept warm with water heated by new solar energy and heat recovery systems.

The NSW Department of Climate Change and the Environment, through its Public Facilities Program, has granted the University $250,000 for the installation of the heating equipment and an associated education program. Carmel Tebbutt, the NSW Deputy Premier and Minister for Climate Change and the Environment, announced the grant at the recent Climate Change Forum in Armidale.

Colin Barry, UNE’s Energy Management Officer, said the project would cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50 tonnes a year and save 20 per cent of the energy currently used in the pool facility. “Combined with its educational component, it will also be a showcase of the technology for the many other indoor heated pools in the New England region,” he said.

UNE is a signatory to the International Talloires Sustainability Declaration, under which universities around the world aim to educate professionals and other graduates in being environmentally responsible, and to incorporate an awareness of sustainability issues in their academic programs. It was the UNE Talloires Declaration Implementation Committee that submitted the application for the grant.

The project will install solar energy collection and heat recovery equipment within the swimming pool building at Sport UNE, and then evaluate and monitor the performance of the technology.

The project team comprises Colin Barry, Mike Quinlan and Graham Johnston (representing the capital-works aspect of the project) and Dr Susen Smith, Carol Davies and Dr Darren Ryder (representing its educational aspect).

Dr Smith, Lecturer in the School of Education, said the project would provide an on-campus example of sustainability initiatives that could be incorporated into the University’s curricula and demonstrate UNE’s commitment to the Talloires Declaration. “It’s been wonderful to work with such a dedicated team of UNE personnel to secure a grant that will support the Talloires Declaration Implementation Committee’s goals of greater sustainable practice, research and teaching across UNE,” she said.

“The presence of successful solar energy collection and waste heat recovery strategies within the University will be a powerful tool for encouraging the uptake of solar energy throughout the region,” Dr Smith added. “And the project’s educational component will promote sustainable energy practices by being incorporated into academic courses and community-based programs such as ‘Education for Eco-engagement’ (part of the UNE TalentEd Enrichment Program, supported by funding from SiMERR NSW).”

UNE’s Faculty of The Professions supported the development of the grant application by providing funding that enabled Carol Davies to be employed as a research assistant. Ms Davies conducted research supporting the application, and the development and implementation of a University-wide survey. “UNE, with its unique rural environment, human community and technical resources, is in a position to become a leader in the field of sustainability, and is gaining a reputation for excellence in this area,” she said.

THE PHOTOGRAPH of Colin Barry and Dr Susen Smith displayed here expands to include Dr Darren Ryder (right) and David Schmude (Acting Executive Officer of Sport UNE) with swimmers Kathleen and Michaela. It was taken at the Sport UNE swimming pool.