Cooling with the power of the sun

Project description

Title: Using environmentally friendly solar-powered freezers and refrigerators in areas of Africa that are not connected to the power grid.
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) as part of the International Climate Initiative (IKI)
Country: Supraregional in Africa: Eswatini (formerly Swaziland), South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Kenya
Overall term: 2008 to 2019

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Context

Cooling is an essential part of everyday life – from cold chains for fresh products and the safe storage of life-saving vaccines and medications to safe environments for work and education that boost productivity. Providing a sustainable supply of refrigeration and cooling is increasingly becoming an issue, especially in African countries. However, large parts of Africa are still not connected to the power grid, which means that innovative solutions are needed to ensure access to cooling. Technological and economic conditions make solar-powered cooling appliances a particularly attractive option for regions with no permanent power supply.

Objective

Solar-powered cooling appliances ensure access to cooling in remote regions without a permanent power supply in several African countries.

Approach

On behalf of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU), the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH is supporting the sustainable use of the SolarChill technology as part of the International Climate Initiative (IKI), with a view to making environmentally friendly cooling available even in remote regions of Africa. Solar-powered coolers guarantee the essential cold chains for life-saving vaccines and medications as well as for fresh products in regions that are not connected to the power grid.

In cooperation with the project partner The Fridge Factory from Eswatini, two prototypes of a solar refrigerator have been developed, namely SolarChill-A for cooling vaccines and SolarChill-B for commercial or private purposes. They have been improved to such an extent that they meet the requirements of tropical and subtropical climate zones and also perform as required under demanding environmental conditions.

Thanks to a built-in ice storage tank developed by engineers from The Fridge Company (formerly known as Palfridge), the cooler is able to continue functioning for three to five days without the need for power from additional batteries. This is particularly important in regions without a power supply when the sun doesn’t shine for several days. 

The SolarChill technology is part of the SolarChill project of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) implemented by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Swiss SKAT Foundation. The solar refrigerators developed in conjunction with the International Climate Initiative (IKI) and produced at Palfridge are being tested in the GEF SolarChill project. Following successful field testing, the prototypes are to go into mass production.

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Results

In integrating the GEF SolarChill project, the GIZ project team has drawn up a strategy paper containing milestones and a schedule in order to coordinate the project activities and allow an efficient technology transfer with the partner Palfridge. This was initiated at the beginning of 2017.

  • Optimisation and certification of the solar-powered vaccine coolers (SolarChill-A). The process of enhancing the technology and developing the production line for the vaccine coolers has been completed. The first prototype was finished at the end of 2017 and 30 coolers are now undergoing field testing. Following the field tests, the plan is to start mass production as quickly as possible, as the World Health Organization (WHO) now only certifies appliances from mass production. Certification is planned for mid-2019.
  • Further development, production and sale of commercial or private solar-powered refrigeration units (SolarChill-B). Palfridge has developed and optimised a SolarChill Model B, which it now offers in Eswatini (formerly Swaziland). There are plans to expand this to other African countries and to integrate the product into existing solar home system projects.
  • Marketing and distribution of the SolarChill technology. Ministries of environment and health in African countries are showing increasing interest in the new technology. Up to now, a total of 90 SolarChill units have been produced (30 vaccine coolers; 30 commercial private refrigeration units; 30 private refrigeration units) and tested in Eswatini, the Gambia, Kenya, Liberia, Lesotho, Botswana, Namibia and Senegal. The distribution networks of Palfridge and the relationships that Proklima has established with ministries of environment and health are also being leveraged in other target countries.

Further Information