Solar-Powered Refrigeration for Dairy Farms

Innovator (Country of Incorporation): 
United States
Collaborators: 
Location Applied: 
Clean Energy Source: 
Agricultural Focus: 
Product Segment: 
Year of Award: 
Financing Status: 
Organization: 

SunDanzer has 15 years of experience with off-grid refrigeration needs, including developing the world’s first battery-free solar powered refrigerator. Winrock International is a leader in agricultural development and has more than a quarter century of experience with renewable energy based rural electrification. It has supported the installation of more than 80,000 rural renewable energy systems around the globe and has three offices in Kenya.

Problem/Opportunity: 

Due to limited electrification in rural areas, 85 percent of Kenya’s 800,000+ dairy farms do not have access to refrigerated storage and transportation. This deficiency in the distribution chain results in less than half of the milk produced reaching dairy processors. Of the milk that is processed, up to 30 percent of it may spoil without appropriate cold-storage options. Consequently, many dairy farmers and processors unnecessarily may lose significant earning potential from their operations.

Clean Energy Solution: 

Recognizing the need for affordable cold-chain technologies, SunDanzer has developed a small-scale portable cooling system tailored for use in the Kenyan dairy market. The system comprises a photo-voltaic refrigerator (PVR) that uses solar energy to cool a chest refrigerator. This uses phase-change materials—substances which are capable of storing and releasing large amounts of energy—as energy storage. SunDanzer also developed milk can blankets to retain the cold temperature as farmers transport the milk to the collection site.

Impact: 

This clean energy solution aims to increase dairy farm productivity and income by significantly decreasing milk spoilage. Effective cold-chain storage lowers bacteria count and improves milk quality for consumers. These improvements can play a major role in the livelihoods of approximately one million smallholder dairy farming families in Kenya. Users have stated that the solution has provided benefits that include adding financial security to the household, cell phone charging which saved time and added income to the household, as well as food preservation.

Progress Update: 

SunDanzer has delivered and installed 40 solar milk cooling refrigerators in Kenya. Of these 40 refrigerators, 38 units were installed at dairy farmers whose product feeds two cooperatives; one was installed at Egerton University; and one was installed at the Mogotio milk cooperative. 40 more units are on their way to Kenya to be installed at farms in rural Kenya counties, two additional units will be installed on farms in Rwanda as a separate project. SunDanzer has added Chloride Exide as their distributor/installer in Kenya.

The farm owner with a few cows was full of praise on how the cooler has changed her life for the better. She noted that there are days when she is late in milking or times when the cooperative truck fails to come for collection of milk. On such occasions, she now has the cooler to preserve the milk for later delivery/collection. Previously, this milk would have gone to waste without the cooler. She also mentioned how the cooler has changed her life, as she stores other perishable household groceries in the fridge.

Project News: 
February 21-22, 2017

This informative workshop will highlight the latest innovations in renewable, on- and off-grid cold chain storage solutions. Topics will include innovations in point of production cold chain technology and strategies for dissemination and financing of solar cold chain solutions for East Africa.

Apr. 19, 2016

PAEGC visited seven installations in Kenya that use SunDanzer’s solar-powered chest refrigerator as a reliable way to cool milk and reduce milk spoilage. This has already led to a 20 percent increase in production, resulting in additional income for farmers.