How to

28 September 2016

Solar Powered Cold Storage Units - A Worthwhile Investment?

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Energy costs are an ongoing concern in cold storage, on any scale. Anything that needs to be kept running consistently 24 hours a day, 7 days a week is going to warrant a hefty electricity bill, and sustainability is becoming a more pertinent factor. Non-renewable energy source costs are steadily increasing, and big investments like a cold storage warehouses are costly enough without the looming threat of inflated energy prices.

One solution is the make the units self-sustaining, with their own dedicated power source, and the easiest way to do that is with solar panels. For the past few years, more and more cold storage units with thermal energy storage (TES) systems have been appearing, and they have a great track record.

The systems use rooftop solar panels, which can then be stored and 'selectively deployed' to power the units with very little human maintenance or intervention needed. TES storage cells were originally developed by NASA, and are ideal for provided a power system which keeps goods at the same temperature, whatever that might be. It might seem somewhat ironic to use heat energy from the sun to keep things cold, but think of it this way - all energy comes from the sun anyway, you're just switching to a more direct delivery system.

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Indonesia, Australia and a number of other countries have already embraced the technology, and the trend doesn't show any signs of slowing down. Some major companies have already gotten in on the act, such as Coca-Cola, who have a system installed on their Budweiser storage facility in Contra Costa, California. Supposedly, the system can reduce peak demand by up to 90%, and of course, if you're off the grid, issues which could otherwise be hugely problematic, like power cuts, are far less pertinent.

In essence, any wall or roof panel could be converted into a solar one, so the cost of the work is really the biggest consideration. It can be expensive, but the reduced energy costs mean that the system could be paying for itself within months. Viking, the foremost provider of solar cold storage systems in Australia, claim that their systems have a 20 year lifetime, and require no maintenance. Whilst you should always take such boasts with a pinch of salt, it gives you an idea of the potential at play here.

Whatever your views on environmental conservation and climate change might be, there's no denying that, financially, a solar system makes sense. At the very least, it's worth finding out if the service is available in your area, and what the cost would be.

Callum Davies

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop.