The burning rays of the tropical sun chill a bottle of water. This apparent contradiction is now a reality on EARTH’s Guácimo campus, home of one of the first solar-powered refrigerators in Central America.
The freezer, which brings the area’s 85 F° air temperature low enough to create cold drops of water on the bottle, was installed during the visit of Frank Jackson, photovoltaic energy specialist at The Renewable Energies Academy of Berlin. Together with Dr. Bert Kohlmann, EARTH professor and coordinator of the Center for Research and Development in Renewable Energies, he has worked on this innovative and sustainable technology.
At first glance, this original refrigerator looks ordinary: a modestly-sized white rectangle. Its ecological secret? The cables that connect it to photovoltaic electricity panels.
Solar-powered refrigeration is currently most widely embraced in areas in rural areas lacking strong electrical infrastructure but abundant in sunlight throughout the year. With the technology’s application to refrigerators, it can now enhance preventative healthcare – and indeed save lives – through storing vaccines and other medications that require cool temperatures. At the same time, it will save communities from buying kerosene to power their refrigerators, which, as the most-polluting household appliances, can burn through as much as a liter per day, spewing carbon dioxide and increasing the risk of fire hazard.
The day when solar-powered refrigerators replace traditional ones seems far away now, Professor Kohlmann points out. Nevertheless, the installation of one of the first ones in the region symbolizes an important step forward for renewable energy, a field in which EARTH has distinguished itself as an international pioneer.
Correction: Although we had previously written that EARTH’s solar-powered refrigerator was Central America’s first, we have since learned that Rancho Mastatal in Puriscal, Costa Rica, installed one in March. We thank the friends who informed us of this exciting news, and we are enthusiastic to join Rancho Mastatal in promoting solar power in the region.
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