Sometimes you just have to show the world how it’s done. Greenfreeze is Greenpeace’s market-proven, environmentally friendly, refrigeration technology. The SolarChill project aims to create a stand-alone solar-powered refrigerator that not only preserves food, but also meets the World Health Organization’s standards for vaccine storage.
F-gases: the Refrigerants that are Heating the Climate
Fluorinated gases, or F-gases, are powerful greenhouse gases and pose a great threat to our climate. They are up to 20,000 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. Ironically, they are used primarily in cooling, in air-conditioners and refrigerators.
The most common F-gases are chlorofluorocarbons (CFC), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFC) and the newest, hydrofluorocarbons (HFC). CFCs and HCFCs were phased out by the Montreal Protocol after it was discovered they destroy our ozone layer. The industry introduced HFCs as their replacement, but in fact, HFCs are a powerful greenhouse gas – thousands of times more powerful than carbon dioxide.
The most recent science shows that if we only focus on reducing CO2 and do nothing about HFCs, they will be responsible for 28-45% of climate change by 2050. To prevent their emissions reaching these dangerous levels, we have to phase out all ozone-depleting and climate-harming F-gases.
Greenfreeze - From snowball to industrial avalanche
That’s why Greenpeace initiated the development of the world’s first ozone- and climate-safe refrigeration technology: Greenfreeze.
Developed in 1992, Greenfreeze is the most environment friendly technology available worldwide for refrigeration. Its benefits are considerable, particularly for developing countries.
Instead of HFCs or other F-gases, Greenfreeze uses hydrocarbons as the blowing agent for the insulation foam and for the refrigerant. Hydrocarbons are completely ozone friendly, and used in refrigeration have minimal global warming impact.
Hydrocarbon technology is not dependent on patented foaming agents and refrigerants. Beside its environmental credentials, Greenfreeze also has lower operating costs and easier maintenance. That’s exactly what we want to show the world – environmental measures can make good business sense too!
Greenpeace believes that hydrocarbon refrigerators offer the best long-term solution to climate and ozone damaging technology in the refrigeration industry.
When we first developed Greenfreeze in 1992, the industry was initially skeptical of its consumer appeal and potential success. To convince them, our supporters put in a special order of nearly 100,000 refrigerators made with Greenfreeze technology. The rest is history.
Today, Greenfreeze is cost effective, technologically mature and commercially accepted. Used in more than 400 million refrigerators around the world, it is widely embraced by companies and consumers alike.
It has spread throughout Europe, Asia and South America, used by leading manufacturers such as Haier, Panasonic, LG, Miele, Siemens, Electrolux, Liebherr and Whirlpool. With the exception of North America, it is available in most major markets.
In the run up to the Beijing Olympics, Greenpeace focused our efforts on urging beverage manufacturers to make their Olympics refrigerators free of F-gases. In 2007, Coca Cola agreed that all of their 6,350 coolers and vending machines would use natural refrigerants. In December 2009, Coca Cola announced that 100% of its vending machines and coolers would be HFC-free by 2015. Other big industry users such as McDonald’s and Unilever are also switching over to HFC free technologies.
In short, Greenfreeze has revolutionized the refrigeration industry, and showed the world that environmentally friendly technology can be commercially successful as well.
SolarChill - taking it to the next level
SolarChill will bring the benefits of refrigeration to people living without reliable supplies of electricity. This project brings Greenpeace together with the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN Environmental Program (UNEP), GTZ Proklima, the Danish Technological Institute (DTI) and Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH).
One of the primary uses of SolarChill will be vaccine storage. Vaccines need to be kept cold or they spoil, making vaccine distribution difficult in areas lacking electricity. One SolarChill unit can serve a population of 50,000 people for preserving vaccines. It will also be a valuable solution for food preservation, and for use in emergency relief.
The unique feature of SolarChill is that energy is stored in ice instead of batteries. An ice compartment keeps the cabinet at desired temperatures during the night. The key to the technology is the use of a direct current compressor instead of the standard alternating current compressor in normal refrigerators. This is the first ever application of a direct current hydrocarbon compressor in the world.
SolarChill is currently at the prototype field-testing stage. There are two models: a chest-type and an upright refrigerator. They are being field tested in Indonesia, Cuba and Senegal. These units meet the required specifications for vaccine refrigeration.
More than just another example of how smart use of technology can help with climate change, the SolarChill project demonstrates that social and environmental issues are often intertwined.
People in the developing world will suffer a lion’s share of the effects of climate change, but play a much smaller role in causing it than industrialized countries. At the same time, they lack the standards in health and food security that people in industrialized countries take for granted.
However, the impacts of climate change, like the spread of infectious diseases, do not respect national boundaries. SolarChill brings practical solutions to health, environment and development issues, and it demonstrates that large international organizations can cooperate to meet overlapping challenges.