Steinway Installs Solar-Powered Air Conditioning
Photo: Robert Stolarik for The New York Times
Solar-powered air conditioning just makes so much sense; it is usually hottest when the sun shines brightest. Now piano maker Steinway has installed an 80 ton absorption chiller that is powered by hot water from tracking solar panels. In the winter, the solar collectors provide water for heating.
The reasons are straightforward; according to VP Andrew Horbachevsky in the New York Times:
"We kind of backed into the ecological thing," he said. "Green is also the color of money."
TreeHugger has covered the century-old technology, common in propane powered fridges before; the systems use heat from any source to vapourize the refrigerant, usually ammonia, which is then condensed and vapourized again, which absorbs heat. We have even provided instructions on how you can do it yourself, although we warn that ammonia is really dangerous, that is the main reason it fell out of favour.
-Diagram of absorption chiller
We have also shown a couple of commercial units that are becoming available to the public, like the Rotarica from Spain.
In China, Broad Air Conditioning has developed more sophisticated and efficient chillers that run on "a wide range of energy sources: oil, gas, as well as solar power, steam, hot water and exhaust. As our chillers do not use electricity as an energy source, they have the potential to dramatically reduce investment in electricity infrastructure in both public and private sectors."
It seems a bit odd that a company as old and traditional as Steinway would be installing such a system in New York; they really should be on every high-tech factory in Texas and Arizona, where they have a lot more sun and need a lot more air conditioning. We hope to be showing that soon.
See also our roundup at The Rebirth of the Cool: 7 Innovations in Air Conditioning