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A Solar-Powered Shed for India's Perishable Food


Green Lifestyle  (tags: asia, 'HUMANRIGHTS!', children, ethics, GoodNews, society, world, diet, food, protection, prevention, nutrition, eco-friendly, energy, CoolStuff, coolstuff, green, greenliving, humans, Sustainabililty, sustainable )

JL
- 913 days ago - green.blogs.nytimes.com
In India, the government estimates that anywhere from 30 to 40 percent of food spoils long before it finds its way to the table.



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JL A. (286)
Wednesday January 30, 2013, 12:38 pm
January 28, 2013, 12:10 pm
A Solar-Powered Shed for India’s Perishable Food
By JOANNA M. FOSTER
Green: Living

Milk? Garbage. Spinach? Garbage. Leftover Thai takeout? Garbage. For millions in the Northeast, clearing out the fridge after days without power was just one more unsavory chore that was part of the cleanup process after Hurricane Sandy passed through.
The SolerCool shed has a small compressor powered by eight solar panelsUniversity of Cincinnati The SolerCool shed has a small compressor powered by eight solar panels

But in the developing world, throwing out food because of inadequate refrigeration isn’t just annoying, it’s a devastating and irreparable economic blow that keeps farmers trapped at the level of subsistence and threatens food security. In India, the government estimates that anywhere from 30 to 40 percent of food spoils long before it finds its way to the table.

Such waste is endemic because so few farmers have access to electricity. Even in Tamil Nadu, one of the most industrialized states in the country and sometimes referred to as India’s California, only 40 percent of the population has electricity. Without power, tomatoes and okra stand no chance in 104-degree weather.

To address the problem, business students and engineers from the University of Cincinnati have teamed with local Ohio companies to create a small solar-powered refrigerated shed for storing food. The SolerCool container runs on just eight solar panels and keeps produce at a comfortably cool temperature, even at night, thanks to a battery that charges during the day.

Mohsen Rezayat, chief solutions architect at Siemens PLM and an adjunct professor in the University of Cincinnati’s engineering school, helped bring all the technology for the shed together. One of its more unusual components is the compressor.

“Compressors, which generate the cold air for refrigeration, are huge energy hogs,” Dr. Rezayat noted. But the team found a company that had created a small portable one that could be run on the power from just a few solar panels.

The unit was designed so that vending machines wouldn’t have to be hauled out for repair, he said. “When something went wrong with the cooling system, a new one could just be popped in like a fresh ink cartridge,” Dr. Rezayat explained. “Turns out, what’s good for vending machines at universities in Ohio is good for cabbages on farms in India.”

For now, the cold shed costs about $5,000, a price that the Ohio team knows is well beyond the reach of most small farmers.

“At the moment the price means that several farms would have to pool resources and share one unit,” Dr. Reyazat said. “We are very price-conscious and are looking at ways to bring the price down to really help the poorest of the poor increase their earning potential.” One possibility is to manufacture some smaller units for farmers with just a few acres.

In the meantime, a field prototype is on its way to an aloe farm near Pune, India, to see if it performs as well in that climate as it does in Ohio.
 

Dave C. (236)
Wednesday January 30, 2013, 12:48 pm
fascinating, lets hope the price comes down.
 

Kit B. (276)
Wednesday January 30, 2013, 1:35 pm

Maybe if we all went back to shopping for each daily meal, there would be less waste? Just a thought.
 

Nancy M. (201)
Wednesday January 30, 2013, 1:37 pm
Really interesting idea. Thanks for posting this. I do wish that solar panels were cheaper than they are and that these containers were too.
 

JL A. (286)
Wednesday January 30, 2013, 1:56 pm
You cannot currently send a star to Dave because you have done so within the last week.
You cannot currently send a star to Kit because you have done so within the last week.
You're welcome Nancy. I wonder whether this might prove to be an option for home garden produce that is overly abundant, too.
 

Nancy M. (201)
Wednesday January 30, 2013, 2:06 pm
True kit but then there are staples and leftovers and all.

If the container was more affordable, it would be a great option. If the solar panels were more affordable in general, IO might want them on my house. I was told recently by a friend who is a contractor that solar panels do have a limited lifespan and there are better ways to make your house more efficient that are less costly and last "forever".
 

JL A. (286)
Wednesday January 30, 2013, 2:46 pm
The US solar cost factors are part of what is leading to companies making a lease option available along with estimates based on customer's actual utility costs, expected reductions and arrangements for the utility company to credit the customer with any generated in excess of their needs against times when need is higher than generated.
 

Terry V. (30)
Wednesday January 30, 2013, 4:51 pm
Price is the problem :(
 

JL A. (286)
Wednesday January 30, 2013, 4:54 pm
You cannot currently send a star to Terry because you have done so within the last week.
 

Natalie V. (27)
Wednesday January 30, 2013, 5:07 pm
noted, thanks
 

JL A. (286)
Wednesday January 30, 2013, 5:13 pm
You're welcome Natalie
 

Christine Stewart (133)
Wednesday January 30, 2013, 6:59 pm
Great idea!
 

JL A. (286)
Wednesday January 30, 2013, 7:13 pm
You cannot currently send a star to Christine because you have done so within the last week.
 

Rosa mc (47)
Wednesday January 30, 2013, 7:39 pm
This is interesting! thanks.
 

JL A. (286)
Wednesday January 30, 2013, 7:40 pm
You're welcome Rosa
 

cecily w. (0)
Wednesday January 30, 2013, 8:07 pm
Fascinating! Wouldn't it interesting if things that were being developed for use in so-called "less-developed" countries could help us reclaim our own?
 

Christeen Anderson (638)
Wednesday January 30, 2013, 8:10 pm
I think this sounds wonderful. Thank you.
 

JL A. (286)
Wednesday January 30, 2013, 8:10 pm
You cannot currently send a star to cecily because you have done so within the last week.
 

JL A. (286)
Wednesday January 30, 2013, 8:12 pm
You're welcome Christeen.You cannot currently send a star to Christeen because you have done so within the last week
 

Michael Kirkby (89)
Thursday January 31, 2013, 10:24 am
There's hope yet...
 

JL A. (286)
Thursday January 31, 2013, 1:30 pm
You cannot currently send a star to Michael because you have done so within the last week.
 
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