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Talkin' bout my (tri)generation

What costs in excess of $20 million to construct and $14 million to maintain over its 15 year life design period? The humble little precast facility photographed below.

Within its walls lies Melbourne Airport's new tri-generation plant, capable of producing eight megawatts or enough power to cover nearly 70% of the airport's requirements. Under the guidance of Gallagher Jeffs, the new facility will run parallel to existing mains power while being able to power the entire Virgin terminal and half of the international terminal in its own right.

Clearly some genuine gains exist in order to expend a vast sum of money on a facility which has a relatively short life span. Aside from grid independence, the tri-generation plant will provide a green energy source which it is estimated will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 920 000 tonnes over its 15 year cycle.

The new plant will aid Australia Pacific Airports Ltd (Tullamarine's operator) aim of having 15% of operational energy consumption to be generated or purchased through on-site renewables or accredited green power schemes by 2018.

What is tri-generation?

Electrical technologies firm Haron Robson provide an excellent description via their website, part of which states:

Tri-generation is the production of electricity, heat and cooling in the one process. Typically this means a gas fired generator producing electricity and heat with the exhaust heat going to an absorption chiller which produces chilled water and hot water for air conditioning or alternatively the heat is used to heat a swimming pool. The ratio of electricity produced and exhaust heat for the absorption chiller and then the ratio of cooling to heating can be varied to meet the specific site requirements.

Haron Robson: What is Tri-generation?

Principal benefits of the facility driven by four TCG 2020 natural gas-powered engines include savings on energy costs, lower greenhouse emissions and grid independence which is critical given the airport has been susceptible to power outages in the past.

15 years too far?

Designed to power (in part) T2 International, one wonders if the tri-generation plant will provide enough output to cater for demand over its lifecycle? Multiple whispers abound that T2 International is in store for wholesale changes - something far more substantial than a simple refurbishment and extension. Time will tell whether the rumours are proven to be true, but for the time being November will usher in a new model of energy production at Melbourne Airport.

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