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Chromasun progresses on solar air conditioner

Start-up raises money to further develop a solar concentrator which uses heat from the sun to cool commercial buildings.

Start-up Choromasun said on Wednesday that it has raised its first round of funding from institutional investors which will allow it to bring its solar-power air conditioner to market.

The San Jose, Calif.-based company said that Danish investor VKR Holding led the $3 million investment, along with GoGreen Capital and two unnamed individuals in the U.S.

A demonstration unit of Chromasun's solar-powered air conditioner. Chromasun

Using solar energy to cool buildings is enticing because the hottest times of the day coincide with the best times to harvest sunlight. Rather than use solar panels to make electricity, though, Chromasun's system converts heat into usable energy for cooling.

Its solar collector, which is designed for commercial rooftops, concentrates light 25 times using a Fresnel lens made from aluminum mirrors. Tubes with a fluid run through the collector, which are heated. That heat is used in an absorption chiller as an alternative to burning natural gas.

The solar collector cannot completely cool a building but the idea is that the chiller will run on solar power during peak times, offsetting the most expensive periods to purchase electricity.

The company has a test installation in Abu Dhabi and is pursuing other projects in Australia, the U.S., and Europe.

Chromasun was founded by Peter Le Lievre, who also co-founded Ausra, a company that makes large-scale concentrating solar power systems using Fresnel lenses.