Abu Dhabi to plug in solar air conditioner

Start-up Chromasun will test a micro-solar concentrator that generates heat to run commercial building air conditioners, a technology designed to reduce peak electricity use.

Start-up Chromasun plans to install a solar-driven air conditioner--a technology with the potential to cut peak-time electricity use--at a commercial building in Abu Dhabi this year.

The company is showcasing the Chromasun solar collector , which concentrates sunlight 25 times, at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi this week, CEO Peter Le Lievre said Thursday.

A solar collector that makes cold air. Chromasun

Chromasun's collectors use a Fresnel lens made from aluminum to concentrate light and then heat a liquid used in an absorption chiller, an air conditioning system used in some commercial buildings. It's the same basic concentrating-solar technology used by solar thermal company Ausra , of which Le Lievre was a co-founder. But the "micro-concentrator" is designed specifically for existing air conditioners.

A micro-concentrator will not be sufficient to cool an entire building, but its maximum output coincides with the hottest times of the day when air conditioning systems are maxed out. The installation in Abu Dhabi, which is being demonstrated at the Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority's stand at the energy summit, can significantly reduce peak-time demand and help stabilize the grid during hot days, Le Lievre said.

In Abu Dhabi, temperatures can break 100 degrees on a daily basis for five months out of each year.

Chromasun also intends to test its system in places that have both good sun and incentives for renewable energy, such as California. Because its solar concentrators are relatively efficient at even high temperatures, the company said that the payback will be quicker than traditional flat-plate or evacuated tube solar collectors or solar electric panels.

Over the course of the day, the solar collectors change their angle for optimum exposure. The installation in Abu Dhabi will require that a two-phase absorption chiller system be installed to supplement the existing air conditioner.

 

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