A cooling system is keeping the Gatton Library on the University of Queensland’s Gatton campus cool and comfortable for occupants without the costs typically incurred by an air-conditioning system.

The Ground Source Heat Pump (GSHP) running at the Gatton Library functions the same as an air-conditioning unit, says Dr Aleks Atrens from UQ’s School of Mechanical and Mining Engineering who explains that the GSHP uses a vapour compression cycle - similar to an AC system - to transfer heat.

However, instead of the heat being transferred into the outside air, it is moved underground where temperatures are constant throughout the year. In Brisbane, for instance, it’s about 23 degrees celsius underground all year-round.

The GSHP is set up to measure operational data using an extensive ground-temperature monitoring system, with data on display at the Gatton Library and online. According to Atrens, the technology, which is popular overseas, hasn’t quite caught on in Australia.

Describing the outcomes of the Gatton GSHP, Atrens says it has, since its construction in January this year, provided 51 megawatt-hours of cooling, the equivalent of cooling an average Brisbane house for approximately three-and-a-half years. However, they need a full year of data so that a comparative analysis can be made between the GSHP and conventional cooling systems.

Researchers from the UQ Geothermal Energy Centre of Excellence add that the GSHP technology is less obtrusive than conventional systems, only requiring small holes in the ground for heat exchange. There are currently two different designs of the GSHP unit operating at Gatton Library, allowing researchers to determine the most effective design.

The Gatton GSHP will be officially opened on Thursday 16 July by Queensland Energy Minister Mark Bailey, UQ Pro Vice-Chancellor Professor Alan Rix, UQ School of Mechanical and Mining Engineering Head of School Professor David Mee, and Queensland Geothermal Energy Centre of Excellence Independent Chair Professor Trevor Grigg.