Local engineers are working on a device that could greatly reduce the amount of water that outback power generators need.

With droughts hitting the country at a greater frequency due to climate change, researchers want to cut the heavy toll that some power stations take from ever-diminishing water supplies.

They have set up a hybrid cooling tower technology at The University of Queensland’s Gatton campus to study and develop new methods to reduce water consumption in thermal power generation.

“We are aiming to reduce water consumption in future Queensland power generation plants by over 70,000 megalitres per year by 2020, equivalent to about 28,000 Olympic sized swimming pools,” said UQ Queensland Geothermal Energy Centre of Excellence Director Dr Kamel Hooman.

“The implications of that are huge – offering up a reliable electricity supply without posing a significant environmental cost on rural communities.

“The hybrid cooling tower technology uses a combination of water and air cooling, depending on the conditions,” he said.

“It operates in the ‘dry’ mode, which requires no water, for a majority of the year.

“For very hot days, commonly less than two weeks a year in Queensland, thermal power generation efficiency can be maintained without having to evaporate copious amounts of water,” he said.

A white paper on the tower is available here.

It can be seen in action in the video below.