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Solar refrigerators: What is being offered on the market?

In rural regions not linked to an electricity network, cooling of foodstuffs, medication, and vaccines is an urgent problem. Until now, kerosene operated refrigerators have been used as a last resort, however, they are not very satisfactory in terms of energy source or energy demand: with a daily consumption of one liter kerosene, each unit has an annual emission of circa 1.2 tons of carbon dioxide.


Meanwhile there are excellent alternatives available. The market offers ever more refrigerators operating with solar energy. Their greatest advantages: by using the sun, they have an energy source that is available free and in endless supply, yet they are also environmentally-friendly and maintain a steady temperature more reliably than their kerosene-operated competitors—which is crucial, especially for vaccines. Solar units thus combine healthcare, environmental protection, and development aid in one.
The latest generation of solar refrigerators, available since mid-2010, offers an additional benefit: these units no longer require a battery. In phases without sunlight, they draw their cooling energy from built-in ice storage. Depending on the model, gaps of up to five days can be covered in this way. In addition: because no (expensive) batteries are required, at a purchase price of circa 1,500 US dollars, these newest solar refrigerators are up to a third less expensive. 


Best practice
Since 2005, the Solar Energy Foundation has installed solar cooling systems in several health stations in Ethiopia, thereby replacing kerosene-operated refrigerators. The provision of kerosene in these remote areas, especially during the rainy period, proved incredibly difficult.
These health stations provide the rural population with vaccines and basic medical care. Vaccines are delicate and must be stored at a constant temperature of 2 to 8 degrees Celsius. In order to reliably assure this temperature, solar systems with 240 wattpeak have been installed. For the cool boxes, a model with a 21-liter capacity has been chosen that can both cool and also freeze at temperatures as low as 18 below Celsius. In order to increase the operational reliability and save on energy, two cool boxes are used at each station. One is used solely for vaccines and runs constantly. The second cool box is used only for deployments in the field. Ice packs are frozen in it in the morning, which are then used to keep the medicines cool during transport. After completing the medical operation, this cool box can be turned off, or in the case of a blackout, it can also be used for vaccines.



Source: sun-connect 5 | April 2011 (p. 2-3)