One of the facilities of Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) is using an innovative solar cogeneration system to not only provide electricity, but to also run mechanical chillers and support the building's air conditioning system.
"Instead of using electricity (most commonly used-method) to run mechanical chillers, SoCalGas’ demonstration project captures and stores the heat generated by solar cogeneration to power one of the Energy Resource Center’s absorption chillers and support the building’s air-conditioning system on-demand." - Cogenra Solar
The solar cogeneration system, from Cogenra Solar, converts some of the energy of the sunlight shining on the system into electricity, and then stores much of the remaining solar energy as heat in water. The system is said to use "over 75% of the energy" from the sun hitting it, as compared to the average of 15% in traditional photovoltaic systems. The heat storage and on-demand cooling provided by the cogeneration system will reduce both the electrical costs and peak demand charges for SoCalGas, which can be 30% or more of the total electricity bill for commercial buildings.
Solar cogeneration installations have usually focused on providing electricity, hot water, and space heating up until recently, and the solar cooling aspect of this system demonstrates yet another application for solar energy, especially in industrial and commercial settings.