Designing a dynamic thermal and energy system simulation scheme for cross industry applications
The South African economy, which is largely based on heavy industry such as minerals extraction and processing, is by nature very energy intensive. Based on the abundance of coal resources, electricity in South Africa remains amongst the cheapest in the world. Whilst the low electricity price has contributed towards a competitive position, it has also meant that our existing electricity supply is often taken for granted. The economic and environmental benefits of energy efficiency have been well documented. Worldwide, nations are beginning to face up to the challenge of sustainable energy - in other words to alter the way that energy is utilised so that social, environmental and economic aims of sustainable development are supported. South Africa as a developing nation recognises the need for energy efficiency, as it is the most cost effective way of meeting the demands of sustainable development. South Africa, with its unique economic, environmental and social challenges, stands to benefit the most from implementing energy efficiency practices. The Energy Efficiency Strategy for South Africa takes its mandate from the South African White Paper on Energy Policy. It is the first consolidated governmental effort geared towards energy efficiency practices throughout South Africa. The strategy allows for the immediate implementation of low-cost and no-cost interventions, as well as those higher-cost measures with short payback periods. An initial target has been set for an across sector energy efficiency improvement of 12% by 2014. Thermal and energy system simulation is globally recognised as one of the most effective and powerful tools to improve overall energy efficiency. However, because of the usual extreme mathematical nature of most simulation algorithms, coupled with the historically academic environment in which most simulation software is developed, valid perceptions exist that system simulation is too time consuming and cumbersome. It is also commonly known that system simulation is only effective in the hands of highly skilled operators, which are specialists in their prospective fields. Through previous work done in the field, and the design of a dynamic thermal and energy system simulation scheme for cross industry applications, it was shown that system simulation has evolved to such an extent that these perceptions are not valid any more. The South African mining and commercial building industries are two of the major consumers of electricity within South Africa. By improving energy efficiency practices within the building and mining industry, large savings can be realised. An extensive investigation of the literature showed that no general suitable computer simulation software for cross industry mining and building thermal and energy system simulation could be found. Because the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) of buildings, closely relate to the ventilation and cooling systems of mines, valuable knowledge from this field was used to identify the requirements and specifications for the design of a new single cross industry dynamic integrated thermal and energy system simulation tool. VISUALQEC was designed and implemented to comply with the needs and requirements identified. A new explicit system component model and explicit system simulation engine, combined with a new improved simulation of mass flow through a system procedure, suggested a marked improvement on overall simulation stability, efficiency and speed. The commercial usability of the new simulation tool was verified for building applications by doing an extensive building energy savings audit. The new simulation tool was further verified by simulating the ventilation and cooling (VC) and underground pumping system of a typical South African gold mine. Initial results proved satisfactory but, more case studies to further verify the accuracy of the implemented cross industry thermal and energy system simulation tool are needed. Because of the stable nature of the new VISUALQEC simulation engine, the power of the simulation process can be further extended to the mathematical optimisation of various system variables. In conclusion, this study highlighted the need for new simulation procedures and system designs for the successful implementation and creation of a single dynamic thermal and energy system simulation tool for cross industry applications. South Africa should take full advantage of the power of thermal and energy system simulation towards creating a more energy efficient society.
- Engineering 
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