The challenge of providing environmentally safe and affordable vaccine and food refrigeration in the poorer regions of the world bridges health, development, and environmental issues.
The need for environmentally friendly and affordable solar vaccine coolers and refrigerators was realized in 1998-2000 through separate discussions between United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), World Health Organization (WHO) and Greenpeace International (GPI).
Independently, around the same time, the Danish Technological Institute (DTI), funded by the Danish Energy Agency, began the development of a new solar refrigerator that bypassed the use of batteries. DTI worked in cooperation with the Danish refrigerator manufacturer Vestfrost. The direct current hydrocarbon compressor was developed by Danfoss Company of Denmark.
The first meeting of the SolarChill Project Partners was hosted by GTZ Proklima in Eschborn, Germany on May 5, 2001. With an initial decision to proceed with the project, Greenpeace International provided the funds for the development of the first SolarChill prototypes. These were exhibited at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in the fall of 2002 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
A second generation of prototypes of the SolarChill Vaccine Cooler went into field testing at the beginning of 2004 in Senegal, Indonesia and Cuba. 10 prototypes of the chest freezer vaccine cooler are being tested under a variety of climatic conditions, 3 units in each of the countries mentioned, and 1 unit at the DTI laboratory in Denmark. The field tests are coordinated by DTI, and overseen in Senegal and Indonesia by PATH, and in Cuba by GTZ. The governments and Ministries of Health of the host countries are active participants in the field tests.
The field tests are scheduled to last for one year. During that time technical data is collected on a regular basis and adjustments are made as required.
Plans call for similar field testing of the upright freezer SolarChill Food Refrigerator in 2005.