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Solar air conditioning refers to any air conditioning (cooling) system that uses solar power.

This can be done through passive solar, solar thermal energy conversion and photovoltaic conversion (sun to electricity). The U.S. Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007[1] created 2008 through 2012 funding for a new solar air conditioning research and development program, which should develop and demonstrate multiple new technology innovations and mass production economies of scale. Solar air conditioning will play an increasing role in zero energy and energy-plus buildings design.[who?]

Solar A/C using desiccantsEdit

Air can be passed over common, solid desiccants (like silica gel or zeolite) to draw moisture from the air to allow an efficient evaporative cooling cycle. The desiccant is then regenerated by using solar thermal energy to dry it out, in a cost-effective, low-energy-consumption, continuously repeating cycle.[2] A photovoltaic system can power a low-energy air circulation fan, and a motor to slowly rotate a large disk filled with desiccant.

Energy recovery ventilation systems provide a controlled way of ventilating a home while minimizing energy loss. Air is passed through an "enthalpy wheel" (often using silica gel) to reduce the cost of heating ventilated air in the winter by transferring heat from the warm inside air being exhausted to the fresh (but cold) supply air. In the summer, the inside air cools the warmer incoming supply air to reduce ventilation cooling costs.[3] This low-energy fan-and-motor ventilation system can be cost-effectively powered by photovoltaics, with enhanced natural convection exhaust up a solar chimney - the downward incoming air flow would be forced convection (advection).

A desiccant like calcium chloride can be mixed with water to create an attractive recirculating waterfall, that dehumidifies a room using solar thermal energy to regenerate the liquid, and a PV-powered low-rate water pump. (See Liquid Desiccant Waterfall for attractive building dehumidification)

The potential for near-future exploitation of this type of innovative solar-powered desiccant air conditioning technology is great.[citation needed]

Active solar cooling wherein solar thermal collectors provide input energy for a desiccant cooling system: A packed column air-liquid contactor has been studied in application to air dehumidification and regeneration in solar air conditioning with liquid desiccants. A theoretical model has been developed to predict the performance of the device under various operating conditions. Computer simulations based on the model are presented which indicate the practical range of air to liquid flux ratios and associated changes in air humidity and desiccant concentration. An experimental apparatus has been constructed and experiments performed with monoethylene glycol (MEG) and lithium bromide as desiccants. MEG experiments have yielded inaccurate results and have pointed out some practical problems associated with the use of glycols. LiBr experiments show very good agreement with the theoretical model. Preheating of the air is shown to greatly enhance desiccant regeneration. The packed column yields good results as a dehumidifier/regenerator, provided pressure drop can be reduced with the use of suitable packing.[4]

Passive solar coolingEdit

Main article: Passive cooling

In this type of cooling solar thermal energy is not used directly to create a cold environment or drive any direct cooling processes. Instead, solar building design aims at slowing the rate of heat transfer into a building in the summer, and improving the removal of unwanted heat. It involves a good understanding of the mechanisms of heat transfer: heat conduction, convective heat transfer, and thermal radiation, the latter primarily from the sun.

For example, a sign of poor thermal design is an attic that gets hotter in summer than the peak outside air temperature. This can be significantly reduced or eliminated with a cool roof or a green roof, which can reduce the roof surface temperature by 70 °F (40 °C) in summer. A radiant barrier and an air gap below the roof will block about 97% of downward radiation from roof cladding heated by the sun.

Passive solar cooling is much easier to achieve in new construction than by adapting existing buildings. There are many design specifics involved in passive solar cooling. It is a primary element of designing a zero energy building in a hot climate.

Solar thermal coolingEdit

Main article: Absorption heat pump

Active solar cooling uses solar thermal collectors to provide thermal energy to drive thermally driven chillers (usually adsorption or absorption chillers).[5] The Sopogy concentrating solar thermal collector, for example, provides solar thermal heat by concentrating the sun’s energy on a collection tube and heating the recirculated heat transfer fluid within the system.[6] The generated heat is then used in conjunction with absorption chillers to provide a renewable source of industrial cooling.[7]

The solar thermal energy system can be also used to produce hot water.

There are multiple alternatives to compressor-based chillers that can reduce energy consumption, with less noise and vibration. Solar thermal energy can be used to efficiently cool in the summer, and also heat domestic hot water and buildings in the winter. Single, double or triple iterative absorption cooling cycles are used in different solar-thermal-cooling system designs. The more cycles, the more efficient they are.

The Audubon Environmental Center in Los Angeles has an example solar air conditioning installation.[8] The Southern California Gas Co. (The Gas Company), and its sister utility, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), are also testing the practicality of solar thermal cooling systems at their Energy Resource Center (ERC) in Downey, California. Solar Collectors from Sopogy and HelioDynamics were installed on the rooftop at the ERC and are producing cooling for the building’s air conditioning system.[7]

In the late 1800s, the most common phase change refrigerant material for absorption cooling was a solution of ammonia and water. Today, the combination of lithium and bromide is also in common use. One end of the system of expansion/condensation pipes is heated, and the other end gets cold enough to make ice. Originally, natural gas was used as a heat source in the late 1800s. Today, propane is used in recreational vehicle absorption chiller refrigerators. Innovative hot water solar thermal energy collectors can also be used as the modern "free energy" heat source.

Efficient absorption chillers require water of at least 190 °F (90 °C). Common, inexpensive flat-plate solar thermal collectors only produce about 160 °F (70 °C) water, but several successful commercial projects in the US, Asia and Europe have shown that flat plate solar collectors specially developed for temperatures over 200 °F (featuring double glazing, increased backside insulation, etc.) can be effective and cost efficient.[9] Evacuated-tube solar panels can be used as well. Concentrating solar collectors required for absorption chillers are less effective in hot humid, cloudy environments, especially where the overnight low temperature and relative humidity are uncomfortably high. Where water can be heated well above 190 °F (88 °C), it can be stored and used when the sun is not shining.

For 150 years, absorption chillers have been used to make ice (before the electric light bulb was invented).[10] This ice can be stored and used as an "ice battery" for cooling when the sun is not shining, as it was in the 1995 Hotel New Otani in Tokyo Japan.[11] Mathematical models are available in the public domain for ice-based thermal energy storage performance calculations.[12]

The ISAAC Solar Icemaker is an intermittent solar ammonia-water absorption cycle. The ISAAC uses a parabolic trough solar collector and a compact and efficient design to produce ice with no fuel or electric input, and with no moving parts.[13]

Makers include ClimateWell,[14] Fagor-Rotartica, Sopogy, SorTech and Daikin.

Photovoltaic (PV) solar coolingEdit

Main article: Photovoltaic electricity

Photovoltaics can provide the power for any type of electrically powered cooling be it conventional compressor-based or adsorption/absorption-based, though the most common implementation is with compressors which is the least efficient form of electrical cooling methods.

For small residential and small commercial cooling (less than 5 MWh/yr) PV-powered cooling has been the most frequently implemented solar cooling technology. The reason for this is debated, but commonly suggested reasons include incentive structuring, lack of residential-sized equipment for other solar-cooling technologies, the advent of more efficient electrical coolers, or ease of installation compared to other solar-cooling technologies (like radiant cooling).

Since PV cooling's cost effectiveness depends largely on the cooling equipment and given the poor efficiencies in electrical cooling methods until recently it has not been cost effective without subsidies. Pairing PV with 14 SEER and less coolers is the least efficient of all solar cooling methods. Using more efficient electrical cooling methods and allowing longer payback schedules is changing that scenario.

For example, a 100,000 BTU U.S. Energy Star rated air conditioner with a high seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) of 14 requires around 7 kW of electric power for full cooling output on a hot day. This would require over a 7 kW solar photovoltaic electricity generation system (with morning-to-evening, and seasonal solar tracker capability to handle the 47-degree[vague] summer-to-winter difference in solar altitude). The photovoltaics would only produce full output during the sunny part of clear days.

A solar-tracking 7 kW photovoltaic system would probably have an installed price well over $20,000 USD (with PV equipment prices currently falling at roughly 17% per year). (New advances in ingot manufacturing have dropped raw silicon (refined sand) costs... leading to lower crystalline silicon; with the advances places like www.sunelec.com can sell inferior strip amorphous silicon modules for $1.20-1.50/kwh of raw modules; infrastructure, wiring., mounting and NEC code costs may add up to an additional cost; for instance a 3120 watt solar panel grid tie system has a panel cost of $0.98/watt hour peak, but still costs ~$2.2/watt hour peak. Other systems of different capacity cost even more, let alone battery backup systems, which cost even more. Due to the advent of net metering allowed by utility companies, your photovoltaic system can produce enough energy in the course of the year to completely offset the cost of the electricity used to run air conditioning, depending on the amount of your electric costs you wish to offset.

A more efficient air conditioning system would require a smaller, less-expensive photovoltaic system. A high-quality geothermal heat pump installation can have a SEER in the range of 20 (+/-). A 100,000 BTU SEER 20 air conditioner would require less than 5 kW while operating.

Newer and lower power technology including reverse inverter DC heat pumps can achieve SEER ratings up to 26, the Fujitsu Halycon line being one notable example, but its requirements of 200-250v AC input makes its use in the USA in smaller grids newer.

There are new non-compressor-based electrical air conditioning systems with a SEER above 20 coming on the market. New versions of phase-change indirect evaporative coolers use nothing but a fan and a supply of water to cool buildings without adding extra interior humidity (such as at McCarran Airport Las Vegas Nevada). In dry arid climates with relative humidity below 45% (about 40% of the continental U.S.) indirect evaporative coolers can achieve a SEER above 20, and up to SEER 40. A 100,000 BTU indirect evaporative cooler would only need enough photovoltaic power for the circulation fan (plus a water supply).

A less-expensive partial-power photovoltaic system can reduce (but not eliminate) the monthly amount of electricity purchased from the power grid for air conditioning (and other uses). With American state government subsidies of $2.50 to $5.00 USD per photovoltaic watt,[15] the amortized cost of PV-generated electricity can be below $0.15 per kWh. This is currently cost effective in some areas where power company electricity is now $0.15 or more. Excess PV power generated when air conditioning is not required can be sold back to the power grid in many locations, which can reduce (or eliminate) annual net electricity purchase requirement. (See Zero energy building)

The key to solar air conditioning cost effectiveness is in lowering the cooling requirement for the building. Superior energy efficiency can be designed into new construction (or retrofitted to existing buildings). Since the U.S. Department of Energy was created in 1977, their Weatherization Assistance Program[16] has reduced heating-and-cooling load on 5.5 million low-income affordable homes an average of 31%. A hundred million American buildings still need improved weatherization. Careless conventional construction practices are still producing inefficient new buildings that need weatherization when they are first occupied.

It is fairly simple to reduce the heating-and-cooling requirement for new construction by one half. This can often be done at no additional net cost, since there are cost savings for smaller air conditioning systems and other benefits.

Since U.S. President Carter created the Solar Energy Tax Incentives in 1978, hundreds of thousands of passive solar and zero energy buildings have demonstrated 70% to 90% heating-and-cooling load reductions (and even 100% reduction in some climates). In contrast, well over 25 million new conventional U.S. buildings have ignored well-documented energy efficiency techniques since 1978. As a result, U.S. buildings waste more energy (39%) than transportation or industry.[17] If their architects and builders had listened to the U.S. Department Of Energy presentations at the National Energy Expositions three decades ago, American buildings could be using $200 billion USD less energy per year today.[citation needed]

Geothermal coolingEdit

Earth sheltering or Earth cooling tubes can take advantage of the ambient temperature of the Earth to reduce or eliminate conventional air conditioning requirements. In many climates where the majority of humans live, they can greatly reduce the build up of undesirable summer heat, and also help remove heat from the interior of the building. They increase construction cost, but reduce or eliminate the cost of conventional air conditioning equipment.

Earth cooling tubes are not cost effective in hot humid tropical environments where the ambient Earth temperature approaches human temperature comfort zone. A solar chimney or photovoltaic-powered fan can be used to exhaust undesired heat and draw in cooler, dehumidified air that has passed by ambient Earth temperature surfaces. Control of humidity and condensation are important design issues.

A geothermal heat pump uses ambient Earth temperature to improve SEER for heat and cooling. A deep well recirculates water to extract ambient Earth temperature (typically at 6 to 10 gallons[vague] per minute). Ambient earth temperature is much lower than peak summer air temperature. And, much higher than the lowest extreme winter air temperature. Water is 25 times more thermally conductive than air, so it is much more efficient than an outside air heat pump, (which become less effective when the outside temperature drops).

The same type of geothermal well can be used without a heat pump. Ambient Earth temperature water is pumped through a shrouded radiator (like an automobile radiator). Air is blown across the radiator, which cools and dehumidifies it without a compressor-based air conditioner. Photovoltaic solar electric panels produce electricity for the water pump and fan—eliminating conventional air-conditioning utility bills. This concept is cost-effective, as long as the location has ambient Earth temperature below the human thermal comfort zone. (Not the tropics)

Zero energy buildingsEdit

Goals of zero energy buildings include sustainable, green building technologies that can significantly reduce, or eliminate, net annual energy bills. The supreme achievement is the totally off the grid autonomous building that does not have to be connected to utility companies. In hot climates with significant degree days of cooling requirement, leading-edge solar air conditioning will be an increasingly important critical success factor.

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. "U.S. Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007". http://www.thomas.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c110:H.R.6.ENR:. Retrieved 2007-12-23. 
  2. San, J. Y., Lavan, Z., Worek, W. M., Jean-Baptiste Monnier, Franta, G. E., Haggard, K., Glenn, B. H., Kolar, W. A., Howell, J. R. (1982). "Exergy analysis of solar powered desiccant cooling system". Proc. of the American Section of the Intern. Solar Energy Society: 567-572
  3. EERE Consumer's Guide: Energy Recovery Ventilation Systems
  4. A packed bed dehumidifier/regenerator for solar air conditioning with liquid desiccants (by Factor, H. M. and Grossman, G., Technion – Israel Institute of Technology)
  5. George O. G. Löf (1993). Active solar systems. MIT Press. p. 682. ISBN 9780262121675. http://books.google.com/books?id=E4uOagBuHD0C&pg=RA1-PA682&dq=solar-cooling+adsorption-or-absorption&ei=_QcvSsD4ApzazQSS-Y2jBw. 
  6. "Solar Air Conditioning Explained"
  7. 7.0 7.1 Nathan Olivarez-Giles. "Using solar heat to power air conditioning". Los Angeles Times. http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-solar20-2009aug20,0,996681.story. Retrieved 2009-09-15. 
  8. Les Hamasaki. "10 Ton Solar Air Conditioning at the Debs Park Audubon Environmental Center in Los Angeles (6 minute video)". http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AtMC2MXc_n8. Retrieved 2007-12-23. 
  9. "Solar Cooling." www.solid.at. Accessed on 1 July 2008
  10. Gearoid Foley, Robert DeVault, Richard Sweetser. "The Future of Absorption Technology in America". U.S. DOE Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). http://www.eere.energy.gov/de/pdfs/absorption_future.pdf. Retrieved 2007-11-08. 
  11. "Ice-cooling System Reduces Environmental Burden". The New Otani News. New Otani Co.,Ltd.. 2000-06-28. http://www.newotani.co.jp/en/group/noc/news/05.htm. Retrieved 2007-11-08. 
  12. "Development of a thermal energy storage model for EnergyPlus". 2004. http://gundog.lbl.gov/dirpubs/04_moncef.pdf. Retrieved 2008-04-06. 
  13. http://www.energy-concepts.com/isaac
  14. http://www.climatewell.com/
  15. Dsire: Dsire Home
  16. EERE: Department of Energy Weatherization Assistance Program Home Page
  17. http://www.aia.org/SiteObjects/files/architectsandclimatechange.pdf

External linksEdit

es:Frío solar hr:Solarno hlađenje it:Solar cooling pt:Tecnologia de refrigeração solar fi:Aurinkojäähdytys sv:Solkyla

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