MSE Research Project Database

TRIGEN: A holistic approach for optimised usage of heating, cooling and electricity for bulk energy consumers

Project Leader: Saman Halgamuge
Staff: Harry Watson
Student: Jay Siriwardena, Saliya Jayasekara
Collaborators: Robert Crawford (Architecture), Che Biggs (Architecture), Muthupandian Ashokkumar (Chemistry), Michael McGann (Philosophy), Vince Cairns (Telstra Corporation), Marty Hsu (Alcatel-Lucent Shanghai), Wolfgang Schott (IBM-Zurich Research Lab)
Sponsors: Energy Institute (University of Melbourne), IBM Zurich Research Lab
Primary Contact: Saman Halgamuge (
Keywords: energy efficiency; fluid dynamics; Green Data Centres; sensor networks
Disciplines: Mechanical Engineering
Domains: Optimisation of resources and infrastructure

Hospitals, hotels, universities and data centres are among the bulk energy consumers with the need to use electricity, heating and air conditioning simultaneously. The main idea of triple generation, or Trigen systems, is to recover the waste heat generated in conventional electricity generation into useful heating or cooling purposes, while generating electricity. Recovery of waste heat contributes to reduction of CO2 emissions by saving fossil fuel. Optimum operation of such a plant can maximise the benefit of triple generation systems. It provides business value for the heat generated in the process of electricity generation. Since the electricity and heat needed are produced on-site, low energy distribution/transmission losses are also achieved.

Cooling of data centres has become a high energy consuming task due to the rapid increase in Internet traffic and communications. Data centres are increasingly criticised for their energy wastage. The realisation of the National Broadband Network (NBN) and the implementation of the carbon tax create a challenge of supplying ever increasing amounts of clean energy to power and cool IT equipment. Currently, nearly 50% of the total energy consumption of a data centre goes into cooling the equipment, so it is a good time to investigate energy optimisation in data centres with an integrated tri-generation plant. Moreover, it is important to take seasonal variations of temperature into consideration alongside of the constant cooling demand of the data centre.

Schematic diagram of integrated tri-generation system for catering the energy demand of a data centre