University of Waikato Innovation Award

The University of Waikato Innovation Award is for a new, ground-breaking energy efficient or renewable energy product, technology or process.


Winner – Hellers and Active Refrigeration

Using waste heat to produce hot water has lowered greenhouse gas emissions by 91%.

Photo of Hellers truck.
Hellers and Active Refrigeration

A prudent approach to energy use at Hellers has resulted in record levels of energy efficiency. Hellers consumes a significant amount of hot water, which was traditionally generated by LPG-fired steam boilers that are expensive to run. By upgrading the hot water system and installing a unique refrigeration heat recovery system, combined with a high temperature heat pump (HTHP), significant energy savings were possible.

Recovering waste heat and using it in another area of energy generation forms the basic principle behind the technology that Active Refrigeration provides. The engineering company’s ammonia-based refrigeration creates simultaneous cooling and high temperature heating from the same plant. Energy savings are achieved through capturing heat produced as a byproduct of the cooling system.

Hellers’ new heat recovery tank and ammonia-based HTHP has redirected wasted energy back into production. Rather than taking energy from a -18°C source and rejecting the heat to the atmosphere at approximately 25°C, the system takes the reject heat at 25°C and discharges usable heat at 65°C, which is then used for heating water.

Since work took place in 2014, the cost of heating water is down by nearly 84%, hot water-related greenhouse gas emissions are down by 91% and Hellers is saving $148,000 a year on energy costs. Reduced LPG usage – and therefore transportation of fuel – has increased health and safety on site and the money saved is being reinvested in maintenance and upgrades to other parts of the plant, which is improving productivity levels.

Judges said:

A combination of intelligent engineering and practical application has achieved massive energy savings. An excellent project that uses outstanding innovation.

Highly Commended – Gull New Zealand and DB Breweries

The world’s first bioethanol made from beer emits 8% less greenhouse gas emissions.

Photo of a Gull service station.
Gull New Zealand and DB Breweries

There are few instances where a brewery and a petrol provider can strike up a business partnership, but DB Breweries and Gull New Zealand have found an innovative common ground in the form of biofuel. Their Brewtroleum is a bioethanol fuel made from beer.

As the first company to bring a biofuel to market, Gull was the obvious project partner for DB Breweries to trial this unusual fuel, based on yeast slurry. Most of natural yeast and grain left over from brewing is used to make Marmite and feed stock, but 150,000 litres per year is surplus and could be turned into biofuel.

A fermenting process similar to that which creates beer produces fuel-grade ethanol which is then refined, added to petrol and named Brewtroleum. The mixture is able to be used in petrol engines including vehicles, small motor boats and motor mowers.

The product is a high-performance 98-octane fuel made with 10% sustainable bio-ethanol, which emits 8% less greenhouse gases than other high-performance fuels. The project is a world first and classic example of Kiwi ingenuity and creativity.

Gull New Zealand is also working with the Sustainable Business Network (SBN) on biofuels to achieve its vision of increasing the use of biofuels in New Zealand by 20% by 2017, and as such have released documents on biofuels for the general public and SBN members.

Brewtroleum was a six-week trial which proved successful and DB is now in the process of stockpiling the yeast by-product to make another batch. DB’s owner Heineken is also interested in taking the idea overseas to test feasibilities with breweries around the world.

Judges said:

An original idea that uses stand-out innovation. This is something that can be easily understood and
supported by the public. Good to see energy-efficiency leadership from two quite different industries on such a clever, collaborative project.

Highly Commended – Spark New Zealand

Wireless technology that takes the heat out of data storage and saves 44% in energy use.

Photo of person checking equipment at Spark.
Spark New Zealand

Where does your data go when it’s stored in the ‘cloud’? The answer is a growing number of data centres, which are energy hungry.  Spark New Zealand has taken steps to reduce energy use at its data centres using technology developed by Vigilent in the United States.

Vigilent’s data centre control system uses wireless technology to innovatively monitor the inlet temperature within racks of data storage to keep everything cool. Individual sensors are positioned across the racks to monitor temperatures and manage appropriate cooling responses that prevent excess air-conditioning and therefore excess energy use.

Spark New Zealand witnessed the technology in action at a large data centre over in California. The American operations team demonstrated how the wireless control system collects temperature readings from the sensors to tell the process coolers to remain on standby when not required. Spark has since installed the Vigilent technology in their business, which is a first for New Zealand.

The entire system set-up took a fortnight and, once fully operational, the energy savings were obvious. Half of all the process coolers were on standby.  The system is achieving annual saving of 620,732 kilowatt-hours, worth $49,000.

Even temperatures have extended the lifespan of the hardware, as conditions are kept within the manufacturer’s specifications. Reduced running time for the coolers has lowered maintenance requirements and reporting features pick up on process cooler performance, which allows for early detection of potential faults.

Judges said:

An attractive and cost-effective project with great potential for expansion and replication across
New Zealand’s IT sector. Nice to see international knowledge-sharing on energy efficient technology.

Commended – Charge Net NZ 

Leading the way for electric vehicles with 100 new fast charge stations.

Photo of people with a charging station.
Charge Net NZ

Over 156 electric vehicle (EV) users have already signed up to Charge Net NZ’s fast charge stations – the only DC rapid charging network in New Zealand. The primary goal of the enterprise is to promote and accelerate the uptake of electric vehicles.

Partnering with retailers, traditional fuel distribution networks, electricity suppliers and local authorities, Charge Net NZ is designing a rapid charging corridor that stretches from one end of New Zealand to the other and is set to challenge the perception that an electric vehicle could run out of juice.

Although most EV charging can be done in the home, at off peak times, according to Charge Net NZ, the lack of visible infrastructure is proven to slow confidence and uptake. Their network is supported by an original wholesale market software and billing platform. Members top up their online account using secure credit card payments. They can then activate charge stations with their smart phone apps or registered key fob. The amount of electricity they use is deducted by the charge station from their online account.

Charge stations are being prioritised for highly populated areas, adjacent to current EV users and public sector and commercial fleets. As EV uptake increases, so will the demand for rapid charging facilities and Charge Net NZ is supporting the entire industry growth with its unique cloud billing software, that is available for use by third party charging networks and other electricity service providers.

Judges said:

An innovative payment idea that is supported by proven technology. Great combination of practical energy efficiency and online product administration. This is a novel way of charging that has picked up on an opportunity in the market.

Commended - Laminex New Zealand

Turning waste wood into renewable energy makes a profit out of a loss.

Photo of staff at Laminex.

Instead of paying to dispose of waste sander dust, Laminex is now using it to fuel its operations. A briquette machine installed in its Taupo plant is turning the leftover wood and sander dust from making particle board into a renewable energy source.

More than 1,000 tonnes of sander dust a year was heading to landfill and Laminex was footing the bill for transport and disposal. Since 2014, the only non-renewable energy used on site is the limited amount of fuel used to run the company’s fleet.

More than $200,000 is saved each year as a result of Laminex’s new briquette machine, which only cost $41,000 to buy. More briquettes are made than the company can use and so the surplus is picked up by other companies and used to fuel their industries.

The briquettes can replace both wood and coal in furnaces and so, for little effort, a big reduction in greenhouse gas emissions could be achieved for New Zealand industry.

Judges said:

The generous attitude towards sharing an energy efficient, renewable fuel has the potential to increase uptake of biomass as a source of energy. A sensible approach to both business and energy efficiency is displayed here – it is a practical and innovative switch that makes the company an exemplar in sustainability.


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