SolarChill addresses four environmental challenges: (a) harnessing renewable solar energy to meet human needs; (b) eliminating ozone depleting and potent global warming substances; (c) eliminating reliance on fossil fuels such as kerosene; and (d) eliminating the use of toxic lead batteries.
A. SolarChill Harnesses the Energy of the Sun
The key environmental imperative facing humanity is the rapid reduction of the use fossil fuels which are the major cause of human induced global warming and climate change.
Weaning the world off fossil fuels and converting to renewable energy, such as solar power, is a critical step towards combating global warming.
SolarChill relies on three 60 watt solar panels to run a direct current compressor, which then runs the refrigerant cycle that produces an ice bank. The energy of the sun is thus stored in ice.
SolarChill is an iconic example of how humanity can embrace renewable energy.
B. SolarChill Eliminates Ozone Depleting and Potent Global Warming Substances
The major environmental concerns regarding all refrigeration technologies are their contribution to ozone layer depletion and global warming. Refrigerators contribute to ozone layer depletion and global warming if they contain ozone depleting and global warming substances in the their insulation foam or in their refrigerant cycle. When relying on fossil fuels for power, their further contribution to global warming depends on their efficiency.
Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), commonly known as freon, have been used worldwide as refrigerants and insulation foam blowing agents in refrigerators since the 1940′s. In the 1970′s and 80′s scientists discovered that the large scale emission of these substances and their eventual molecular breakdown in the atmosphere cause severe ozone layer depletion. They also significantly contribute to global warming.
When the international community moved to ban the use of CFCs in the 1980′s, the chemical industry introduced replacement substances such as hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). But HCFCs are also harmful to the ozone layer, and both HCFCs and HFCs are potent global warming substances. For example, the most commonly used HCFCs and HFCs, that is HCFC-141b and HFC-134a, have the global warming potential (GWP) of 1800 and 3300 respectively, over a 20 year atmospheric lifetime calculation.
CFCs and HCFCs are scheduled to be phased-out world wide under the terms of the Montreal Protocol. HFCs are included in the basket of greenhouse gases whose total emissions must be significantly reduced to protect the global climate under the terms of the Kyoto Protocol.
SolarChill eliminates the use of HCFCs and HFCs. It incorporates Greenfreeze technology that uses hydrocarbons in the refrigerant cycle and in the insulation. Hydrocarbons, used in this manner, are safe for the ozone layer and have minimal contribution to global warming. Greenfreeze technology was developed by Greenpeace in the early 1990’s for domestic refrigeration, and today there are over 200 million Greenfreeze refrigerators in the world.
C. SolarChill eliminates the reliance on Kerosene
Kerosene vaccine coolers are used in most regions that lack reliable sources of electricity.
Kerosene coolers need to be refilled each week. On the average, kerosene vaccine coolers consume between .8 –1 liter of kerosene daily, or 292 to 365 liters annually. One liter of kerosene produces 5.68 pounds of carbon dioxide. Each kerosene vaccine cooler therefore produces between 1, 658 and 2,073 pounds of CO2 annually.
It is estimated that the global fleet of kerosene vaccine coolers numbers around 100,000. Therefore, the annual global warming contribution of these vaccine coolers from kerosene consumption is between 75,192 and 94,013 metric tons of CO2 equivalent.
These figures may seem small relative to other anthropogenic contributions to global warming (e.g. power production or automobile emissions) but they are nevertheless significant in so far that through the use of solar power this contribution to global warming can be entirely eliminated. This has practical as well as important symbolic relevance.
In addition kerosene is a dirty fuel. It is an indoor air pollutant and is harmful to human health.
Kerosene vaccine coolers are often unreliable. They can catch on fire, and they often freeze
There is an inherent contradiction in meeting human health needs with technologies that are detrimental to human health.
D. SolarChill eliminates the use of lead batteries
Current generation of solar vaccine coolers rely on lead batteries to store energy. Lead batteries are unreliable, especially in warm climates. They often break down and are expensive to replace.
They are a major obstacle to the uptake of solar technologies in developing countries.
Lead batteries also pose an environmental and health hazard during production, use and disposal. Tens of millions of lead batteries are disposed off in developing countries each year. Often these batteries end up in landfills, or are haphazardly dismantled. Each battery contains approximately 27 pounds or 12.2 kilograms of lead. 75% of global lead production goes into batteries.
Inefficient production and recycling operations release tons of lead into the environment. When lead is melted the resulting fumes, which contain toxic lead particles, become airborne. Lead contamination also accumulates in dust, soil and groundwater. Such contamination is a primary source of exposure for children, and is also bio-accumulative, impacting on other species. Children are especially vulnerable to lead poisoning.
Lead poisoning can lead to loss of neurological functions, brain damage, deleterious impacts on central nervous system, kidneys, and blood diseases. According to the World Health Organization over 100 million people in developing countries are over-exposed to lead. It is estimated that the annual cost of lead poisoning in children in the United States exceeds $43.4 billion. Worldwide estimates are not available, but would far exceed that amount.
SolarChill eliminates the use of lead batteries by storing the energy of the sun in what can be best described as an ice battery. This is an ecological and health benefit, again both in real and important symbolic terms.
SolarChill demonstrates that is possible meet human needs with sustainable technologies.