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. Currently, half of the milk produced cannot reaches dairy processors due to storage or transportation issues. 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: 

To date, SunDanzer has delivered and installed nearly 70 solar milk cooling refrigerators in Kenya, and installed two units in Rwanda. The second generation units currently being installed are roof-mounted, a more cost-effective option than the previous generation, which were pole-mounted. Most units continue to be installed at dairy farms, with camel milk processors being among the newest customers. SunDanzer and their partner Winrock International co-hosted a 2-day Renewable Energy Cold Chain workshop and field visit in February 2017, with over 70 attendees. In their third phase of deployment, SunDanzer expects to install an additional 25 units in Kenya and 75 units in other countries by early 2018. SunDanzer’s project has been extended to May 2018. 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.

Project News: 
Mar. 14, 2018

SunDanzer has been interested in the off-grid household and small business refrigeration market for years. Their recent win at the Global LEAP Awards presents a great opportunity to meet that call! They're hard at work on finding the balance of price and energy efficiency needed to make it work.

Jan. 22, 2018

SunDanzer Refrigeration was a big winner at the Global LEAP Awards Off-Grid Refrigerator Competition—two of their products won innovation cash prizes of $200,000 each for demonstrated market-leading advancement in energy efficiency and overall value. Congratulations and good work!