Tapping sunlight to save electricity

DNA | July 10, 2011

Pune-based Thermax Limited has designed and commissioned a first-of-its kind solar air conditioning system at the Solar Energy Centre in Gurgaon, Haryana.

Union minister for new and renewable energy (MNRE) Farooq Abdullah inaugurated the 100 KW technology demonstration project recently. Union minister of power Sushilkumar Shinde was present.

In this innovative installation, the company has integrated indigenously developed triple-effect chiller and solar parabolic concentrators.

While conventional solar systems take up a large area for limited cooling output, the Thermax project through in-house R&D has achieved a significant space reduction of nearly 30% and a 20% increase in cooling efficiency. This has brought down cost and moved the project closer to commercialisation.

Speaking about the national relevance of the project, partly funded by MNRE, Thermax Ltd managing director and CEO, MS Unnikrishnan, said, “A growing India will consume 35% of its electricity generated only for cooling and air conditioning. So it makes immense sense to use solar energy as a source for cooling, and reduce the use of fossil fuel.”

According to the company, the solar cooling systems operating in various countries, including India, use low and medium temperature solar collectors with single or double effect absorption chillers that work on heat instead of electricity. The solar collectors in the Thermax system have been designed to harness the sun's energy in an effective manner to provide temperatures from 140°C to 210° C. They are effectively integrated with a newly designed triple effect chiller.

Offering the highest COP (coefficient of performance) in global markets today, the new chiller offers a technological breakthrough for solar applications.

The fact that the availability of sun's energy during daytime matches the cooling requirements of commercial establishments makes this application practical and promising. The project can lead the way in substantially reducing the load on the national power grid.

The company has developed its indigenous solar parabolic concentrators through collaborative application research with a host of eminent agencies — Advanced Research Centre for Power Metallurgy and New materials (ARCI), IIT Kanpur, and Fraunhofer Institute from Germany.

The system can also be operated with natural gas to provide continuous cooling during non-sunny hours. This fast-track project has been successfully completed within fifteen months and Thermax would also take care of the operation and maintenance of the installation over the next five years.

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