Solar-powered cold storage service

Small farmers in the Indian state of Bihar are making productive use of solar energy to reduce their losses and increase their income, thanks to an innovative pay-per-use cooling service for perishable produce.

From pv magazine India

Oorja Development Solutions, a decentralized solar solutions provider, has launched solar-powered cold storage as a service in the Indian state of Bihar. The “Oonnayan” cooling service allows small farmers to store perishable horticulture produce on a per-crate-per-day basis without paying any high upfront costs.

To deploy the service, Oorja Development Solutions has teamed up with Ecozen Solutions, the supplier of Ecofrost decentralized solar cold rooms. Cooling-as-a-service is quite significant for India, where around 20% to 30% of produce is wasted after harvest due to the non-availability of nearby cold storage facilities. Running cold storage facilities requires regular electricity, but grid electricity in rural areas is often unreliable. 

“While the government provides capital subsidies, these subsidies are generally available only to individual farmers up to 35% to 50%. The remainder of the project costs must be met by the farmer, making them inaccessible to most of the farming population,” said Clementine Chambon, co-founder and chief technology officer of Oorja Development Solutions. “Cooling is available as a service. Farmers can buy access to refrigerated space within a cold room installed conveniently at the market gate.”

Ecofrost solar-powered cold storage can accommodate up to 6 metric tons of perishable produce. It relies on a polycrystalline solar panel array of 5 kWp capacity mounted on the container roof and stores power using phase-change-material-based thermal energy storage, rather than conventional batteries or diesel. The thermal energy storage system can provide cooling backup for up to 36 hours in cloudy weather. 

Ecofrost charges itself completely with just five to six hours of grid power. The system can be operated and monitored remotely via an Android app that provides real-time data on stored produce and predictive maintenance alerts to reduce downtime. The system maintains a controlled interior temperature of 4 C to 13 C.

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