“A coordinated effort is needed to develop the solar thermal market in North America,” Lucio Mesquita, Head of Thermosol Consulting in Canada, said during his presentation about “Solar Cooling in North America” at the Intersolar North America in San Francisco in July.
Photo: Thermosol Consulting
Air-conditioning is ubiquitous in the United States: There are 81 million units installed in residential houses and 3.6 million in commercial buildings. “But how many solar cooling systems are among this huge number of systems,” asked Mesquita; and gave the answer himself: “Only 22 systems by the end of 2009” – a surprisingly small figure. Nevertheless, the mechanical engineer, who has identified these systems in the framework of Task 38 under the Solar Heating and Cooling Programme (SHC) of the International Energy Agency, emphasized that at least “15 of them are less than 5 years old” (see the attached presentation). California leads the state ranking with its seven installations, followed by Arizona with 5 and Florida with 2. Each one of the remaining systems can be found in an other state as the only one of its kind there, such as the system at Fletcher Park in North Carolina and the one at Steinway & Sons' piano factory in New York.
The majority of the identified projects in North America work with single-effect absorption chillers (17 installations). Mesquita could list just three installations with double-effect absorption chillers and one installation each with the following chiller technology: single-effect adsorption and liquid desiccant. The mechanical engineer pointed out that he is only aware of two US-American chiller manufacturers: The company Power Partners in the state of Georgia manufactures adsorption chillers with silica gel based on the Nishiyodo technology, which is about to finish the first solar cooling projects. The second one is the New Jersey-based company AIL Research, which commercialized a heat-driven liquid-desiccant air conditioner.
The consultant also listed the factors preventing present market growth: Low energy prices, high initial costs and lack of knowledge. Mesquita thinks that a support program is necessary – even a small one would help. “We badly need to join forces and form a working group,” Mesquita emphasizes. The group's objectives would be to create and share information and knowledge about solar cooling technology with designers and engineers. The mechanical engineer has already heard about a solar cooling system which had to be removed because of technical deficiencies and quality problems.