Qantas has built Australia's largest commercial tri-generation (cooling, heating and electricity) project in Sydney which uses natural gas to produce more efficient, lower carbon energy for its headquarters, catering centre, jet maintenance base and domestic terminal.
A tri-generation system can provide power, hot water, space heating and air conditioning from a single system. Generators produce heat as they create electricity. A tri-generation facility captures this heat that would otherwise be lost and uses it to generate both hot and cold water.
The chilled water is created by an absorption chiller, which is generated by the excess heat and which operates similar to a refrigerator. It creates low temperature water for use in air conditioning.
The tri-generation facility at Qantas uses natural gas, the most common fuel for tri-generation due to its relatively low cost, ease of transport (via pipeline), wide availability and lower greenhouse gas intensity per unit of energy.
Tri-generation facilities can achieve overall energy efficiencies of 75-85% by avoiding losses associated with the transport of electricity. This is compared to only 35% efficiency on average for conventional supply of electricity from the regional grid.
The airline has also recently completed a major refurbishment of its corporate headquarters, close to Sydney Airport. The refurbishment and tri-generation power plant will result in the buildings rising from an average Australian Government energy efficiency rating of 1.5 stars to 5 stars. Between 2009/10 and 2013/14 Qantas reduced total electricity consumption by 9.2% despite growth in its operations.