Greenfreeze and solar chill

Background - April 23, 2009
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.

Greenfreeze - From snowball to industrial avalanche

When the dramatic discovery of the ozone hole in 1986 forced the banning of chlorofluorocarbons  (CFCs), the refrigeration industry switched to hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).HCFC¹s are also ozone depleting substances but less so than CFCs.Meanwhile, both HCFCs and HFCs are potent greenhouse gasses. It was an environmental case of "out of the frying pan and into the fire".

Greenfreeze and Solar Chill on display at the Earth Summit in Johannesburg, Setpember 2002.

To highlight the madness of switching from disastrous to very bad, and to show that it is possible to do it right, Greenpeace initiated the development of an environmentally friendly domestic refrigerator. We call this technology Greenfreeze, and it avoids the use of HCFCs and HFCs.

Once the Greenfreeze technology was developed it had to be marketed.   To convince a skeptical industry that there is wide spread consumer appeal for an environmentally friendly refrigerator, our supporters pre-ordered nearly 100,000 of them. The rest is history.  

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. The operating costs are lower, and the maintenance is easier than with HCFC or HFC technology.

Greenfreeze revolutionized the refrigeration industry. Today there are over 150 million Greenfreeze refrigerators in the world, produced by all the major European, Chinese, Japanese and Indian manufacturers.  Major European companies, including/Siemens, Electrolux, Liebherr, Miele, Quelle, Vestfrost, Whirlpool, Bauknecht, Foron, and AEG are marketing Greenfreeze. It is now available in most major markets, with the exception of North America.  Big industry users, most notably Coca Cola, McDonald's and Unilever are also switching over to HFC free technologies.

In short, Greenfreeze is a triumph of "can do" over "can't be done", and an encouraging demonstration that there are workable solutions to climate change.

SolarChill - taking it to the next level

SolarChill will bring the benefits of refrigeration to people living without reliable supplies of electricity.

The SolarChill 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 where electrical supply has been disrupted by war or natural disaster.

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.

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