Robur is a member of the Gas Absorption Alliance (GAA), along with 10 key gas utilities across the country. GAA is based on a common interest in developing and marketing a high-efficiency, environmentally friendly air conditioning product.
Many of those attending the April 14-15 convention were GAA members, but some came to learn more about what the alliance can offer. Phil Ross, operations manager for Indiana Natural Gas, Paoli, Ind., was there to learn about the products available. “We’d like to find a technology we can sell to sell more gas,” he said.
NUI City Gas, a utility serving 360,000 customers along the Atlantic seaboard, is already a GAA member. Southern Division residential sales manager Richard Carlson said that, with expanded use of GAX technology, “We see a real opportunity to increase our throughput in Florida, where we have low gas consumption. We’ve been looking for years for a way to maximize the investment we already have in the ground.”
Ron Fiskum, program manager, thermally activated heat pumps-fuel cells for the Department of Energy, said DOE has a goal of reducing the nation’s carbon emissions by 40%. “More efficient burning of natural gas is a way to do that,” he said. “This [GAX chiller] will revolutionize the way we cool our homes.”
A supporter of natural gas cooling technology since 1982, DOE has been working with Robur on its R&D program for two years, he said.
Thousands of GAX chillers already have been successfully installed in North America, the Middle East, South America, Europe, the Pacific Rim, and Asia.
Richard Morrow, chairman-elect of the American Gas Cooling Center, said, “We need to advance this product so it becomes competitive on all fronts. Lifecycle costs are important, but operating costs are also. Gas is a better bargain.”
Village Green is a cooperative effort among the federal government and private industry via PATH, the Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing.
Ren Anderson, Ph.D., technology manager for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, explained PATH’s goal of cutting energy use in new homes by 50% and in 15 million existing homes by 30%.
“If this goal is achieved by 2010, consumers will save $11 billion a year in energy costs,” he said. “This technology has the potential to improve the overall efficiency of energy resources to useful applications in heating and cooling our buildings. We have a way to go yet, but Village Green is a first step in achieving that.”
Increased public awareness of gas-powered air conditioning will require a joint effort. Morrow commented, “Industry and the infrastructure must be in place to make it work. If there is no [utility] industry support, there might not be another shot.”
John Cuttica, vice president for the Gas Research Institute (GRI), said, “Training of certified maintenance technicians is crucial. Unfortunately, sometimes the attention given to ensuring proper training of installers and maintenance staff lag behind” training of sales and marketing staff.
GRI began working with Robur’s predecessor company, Dometic, in developing GAX.
Robur has announced a goal of increasing its output of GAX chillers from current levels of 2,500 to 15,000 by 2001. Manilo Rizzo, vice chairman, Robur Group, said, “Our biggest challenge will be to synchronize and focus our efforts. There are many options and opportunities.”
The company plans to begin production of its new GAX heat pump in 2002.