Solar Energy and Air Conditioning: Cooling a Warming Planet

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As the demand for cooling increases in the world’s warmer regions, global energy consumption for air conditioning is expected to continue to rise dramatically. Solar energy based air conditioning can provide low carbon emissions cooling in the face of these challenges.


With increased likeliness of extreme heat due to climate change, demand for air conditioners will continue to grow. This, inadvertently, will drastically increase carbon emissions.

Extreme heat has been prevalent this summer with record highs in most regions causing a strain on infrastructure and even ending in fatalities.

As the demand for cooling increases in the world’s warmer regions, global energy consumption for air conditioning is expected to continue to rise dramatically. Solar Energy based air conditioning can provide low carbon emissions cooling in the face of these challenges.

As solar energy pricing continues to decrease, solar electric air conditioners are now becoming a reality. We now can find a variety of solar-powered products in the market that can meet a variety of cooling needs.

An example of such products comes from Lennox.

The SunSource® Home Energy System from Lennox integrates the power of both solar photovoltaic technology and air conditioning systems.

The product works by producing energy from the sun and sends this energy to power the attached air conditioning unit, which cools your home. Excess energy not used for air conditioning could be used to power other small appliances and electronics.

The unit also has grid back feeding capabilities whereas any unused energy could be sold back on the grid.

While this product from Lennox os a good example, there are other fairly new products in the market that still offer solar powered air conditioners. One such example is a product from the home electronics and appliance company “Videocon”, which announced the release of a hybrid solar energy air conditioner to run 100 percent solar electricity.

Videocon’s Akshay Dhoot told Business Today this is the future of air conditioning with hybrid solar will eliminate the need to use the electric grid for cooling.

Both the Lennox and Videocon systems are leading the way in developing solar-powered air-conditioning systems with little to no carbon emissions.

Arctic sea ice is one of the most visible indicators of our changing climate /U.S. NATIONAL SNOW AND ICE DATA CENTER

Global warming apart, there are other very tangible reasons to use solar to power air conditioning units.

Firstly, it can reduce utility bills. By running the air conditioning unit solely on solar power, rather than drawing from the electric grid, demand charges are heavily reduced hence reducing your monthly bill.

Secondly, the environmental impact. Using solar based air conditioning can reduce carbon emissions, which are a cause of anthropogenic climate change.

While solar-powered air conditioning is a “no-brainer” it’s not cheap. The cost to install the solar power system and the air conditioning units can be quite high.

However, the energy generated from the solar panels is free and helps to lower monthly electric bills. This makes the rather hefty upfront cost a viable investment longterm.

Despite concerns, solar electric air conditioners offer a game-changing opportunity at how we look at cooling ourselves during oppressive heat. This product has a chance of providing a low carbon alternative to traditional air conditioning systems in the market, especially in emerging markets.

More cooling systems will play an essential role in the future as global temperatures are expected to increase with extreme heat events. The paradox is that the more traditional air conditioners that are required, the more it will help increase carbon emissions.

Add the rise of emerging markets demand, for consumer products, along with a global population that is expected to reach 9.8 billion by 2050 which will only strain resources.

So, there is a significant potential to make a business case for developing a solar-powered air conditioning market. So how will solar electric air conditioning firms find their niche?

Firstly, the price of solar power will need to continue to fall. Solar prices at one point in the 1970’s where $76.67/watt. Today, solar prices have declined by 99%.

Solar is also now cost competitive with fossil fuels.

Secondly, educating consumers on the profitability and the good that solar-powered air conditioners can do for the plant is vital in providing low carbon cooling solutions towards regular air conditioners is essential. Informing customers on the existence of this option gives them the necessary information needed to make good choices when shopping around for the next air conditioning unit.

This, in turn, boosts demand for the product, which signals the market for potential opportunities for suppliers.

Thirdly, this could help grow local economies, by creating jobs and could boost the use of already existent solar schemes such as the Pay As You Go Solar services and microgrid programs in parts of Africa. This could also very useful for other developing nations such as Brazil, India, etc. that are most at risk of extreme heatwaves, and would benefit the most from solar powered air conditioners.

Solar powered air conditioners, if provided the right market and consumers base, can become a viable low carbon emission cooling alternative to traditional air conditioning in an increasingly warming world.

Interested in solar? Get a solar cost estimate and find out how much a solar system would cost for your home or business.
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