Solar air conditioning

Solar air conditioning

Solar air conditioning refers to any air conditioning (cooling) system that uses solar power. This can be done through passive solar, photovoltaic conversion (sun to electricity), or solar thermal energy conversion. The U.S. Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007cite web | title = U.S. Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 | url = | accessdate = 2007-12-23 ] 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.

olar A/C using desiccants

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. [ [ A packed bed dehumidifier/regenerator for solar air conditioning with liquid desiccants] (by Factor, H. M. and Grossman, G., Technion – Israel Institute of Technology)]

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

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. [ [ EERE Consumer's Guide: Energy Recovery Ventilation Systems ] ] 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 desiccate 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.

olar Thermal Cooling

Active solar cooling wherein solar thermal collectors provide thermal energy to drive thermally-driven chillers (usually ADsorption or ABsorption chillers.)

There are multiple alternatives to compressor-based chillers that can reduce energy consumption by 80%, with less noise and vibration. Solar thermal energy can be used to efficiently cool in the summer, and also heat domestic hot water, and the building in the winter. The Audubon Environmental Center in Los Angeles is one example among many). [cite web | author = Les Hamasaki | title = 10 Ton Solar Air Conditioning at the Debs Park Audubon Environmental Center in Los Angeles (6 minute video) | url = | accessdate = 2007-12-23 ] 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.

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 degrees F (88 degrees C). Common, inexpensive flat-plate solar thermal collectors only produce about 160 degree F (71 degree 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 degrees F (featuring double glazing, increased backside insulation, etc.) can be effective and cost efficient. [ [ "Solar Cooling."] Accessed on 1 July 2008] 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 degrees F (88+ degrees 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). [cite web | author = Gearoid Foley, Robert DeVault, Richard Sweetser | title = The Future of Absorption Technology in America | publisher = U.S. DOE Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) | url = | accessdate = 2007-11-08 ] 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. [cite web | title = Ice-cooling System Reduces Environmental Burden | work = The New Otani News | publisher = New Otani Co.,Ltd. | date = 2000-06-28 | url = | accessdate = 2007-11-08 ] Mathematical models are available in the public domain for ice-based thermal energy storage performance calculations. [cite web | title = Development of a thermal energy storage model for EnergyPlus | date = 2004 | url = | accessdate = 2008-04-06 ]

Passive Solar Cooling

Described as "passive" because solar thermal energy is not used directly to create a cold environment or drive any direct cooling processes.

Passive solar building design is used to (1) slow the rate of heat transfer into a building in the summer, and (2) remove unwanted heat from a building. The principles of physics are holistically integrated into the exterior envelope. This is much easier to do in new construction.

It involves a good understanding of the mechanisms of heat transfer: heat conduction, convective heat transfer, and thermal radiation (primarily from the sun).

For example: One sign of poor thermal design is an attic that gets hotter than the peak outside summer 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 degrees F (39 degrees C) in the summer. Below the roof there should be a radiant barrier and an air gap, which blocks 97% of downward radiation from roof cladding heated by the sun.

There are hundreds of design specifics involved in Passive Solar Cooling. It is a primary element of a Zero energy building in a hot climate.

Photovoltaic Solar Cooling

Photovoltaics can provide the power for any type of electrical air conditioner or chiller. At the current time, this is not cost effective for use on a building with a conventional compressor-based cooling load (without a large system subsidy).

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 7kW of electric power for full cooling output on a hot day. This would require over a 7kW solar photovoltaic electricity generation system (with morning-to-evening, and seasonal solar tracker capability to handle the 47-degree 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 kWh photovoltaic system would probably have an installed price well over $60,000 USD (with PV equipment prices currently falling at roughly 17% per year). If you need your air conditioner to work when skies are cloudy, or in the evening, you would require more than 7 kWh of PV power, plus expensive electrical batteries that have to be replaced about every 6 years. Or, you would need to purchase electricity from your local power company when photovoltaic power is not available.

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 kWh while operating.

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, [ [ Dsire: Dsire Home ] ] 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 [ [ EERE: Department of Energy Weatherization Assistance Program Home Page ] ] 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. [] 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.

Geothermal cooling

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 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 is useless when outside air temperature is below 40 degrees F).

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)

olar thermal fan-assisted air conditioning (Sun Lizard)

A recent Australian invention,Cite web|url=|title=ABC TV Inventors: Sun Lizard by Colin Gilliam|accessdate=2008-04-30|publisher=ABC TV Australia] this system uses a combination of solar thermal energy, ducts, and a solar driven fan to offer both heating and cooling potential. The Sun Lizard is a solar-powered ventilation system that incorporates both a photovoltaic panel and a large solar collector, which moves heated or cooled air around a dwelling.Cite web|url=|title=Sun Lizard Solar Climate Control|accessdate=2008-04-30] A single unit can heat and cool an area of 100 sqm to up to convert|10|°C|°F cooler in summer and convert|4|°C|°F to convert|6|°C|°F warmer in winter.

The sunlizard is effectively a photovoltaic fan, with a solar-air-heater. Cooling is only achieved when the fan is used to draw air from low level into the building via ducts. The incoming air at lower level is presumed to be "cooler." The system takes advantage of the natural effect of internal warm air to rise towards high level (buoyancy effect, sometimes referred to as natural convection.)

Zero energy buildings

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.

Zero energy buildings (with solar air conditioning, etc.) can help solve our current energy crisis, reduce the largest contributor to global warming, improve energy independence, and energy security, create millions of new green-collar worker jobs, and greatly increase gross domestic product, while eliminating unnecessary utility bills, and extending the useful life of our finite electric power generation facilities.fact|date=July 2008 The U.S. Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 includes new funding to improve nationwide building codes to align with recent advances in zero energy building design and with the new solar air conditioning program.

ee also

* Absorption chiller
* Air Conditioning
* Desiccant
* Earth cooling tubes
* Earth sheltering
* Geothermal exchange heat pump
* Geothermal heat pump
* International Solar Energy Society (ISES)
* Passive cooling
* Passive house
* Passive solar building design
* Passive solar
* Photovoltaics
* Solar power
* Solar thermal energy
* Zero energy building


External links

* [ AbsorPilot] es
* [ EU:solar Heating and Cooling:] .
* [ Cooling with Solar Heat: Growing Interest in Solar Air Conditioning] .
* [ Liquid Desiccant Waterfall for attractive building dehumidification]
* [ Passive solar cooling]
* [ Passive solar cooling in a hot humid climate]
* [ Rotartica]
* [ Solar Heating and Cooling Programme, International Energy Agency] .
* [ Solar Thermal Absortion Cooling System] .
* [ Ultra High Vacuum (UHV) panels from SRB (Segura Roig Benvenuti)] and CERN.
* [ Fraunhofer-Institut für Solare Energiesysteme ISE, Solar Cooling]


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