Scientists develop energy efficient fridge network

January 14th, 2009 - 11:32 am ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Jan 14 (IANS) A new smart network of green refrigerators, capable of making optimum use of renewable energy, can keep everything inside cool while regulating its power consumption from solar panels or wind turbines.The network of green fridges has been developed by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).

CSIRO engineer Sam West said the smart fridges work as a network of distributed fridges, each fitted with control technology that allows them to communicate with one another via a network to share and store the energy provided by renewable-power generators.

“The fridges are designed to talk to each other (sic), negotiating when it’s a good time to consume electricity and when it’s better not to,” West said.

During the day, for example, supplies of power generated from solar photovoltaic cells can be interrupted by cloud cover resulting in periods of variable power supply.

“These fluctuations are bad for the electricity grid,” West said. “Rapid variations in electricity flow can destabilise the grid and result in blackouts and other unwanted side-effects, but your fridge can help smooth out these fluctuations if it turns on and off at the right time.

“The fridges work together to decide when to cool down, and thus consume power, based on how much surplus power will be available. They are able to anticipate power shortages and change their running schedules accordingly to use as little power as possible during these times.

“In short, the fridges are working cooperatively to use the available power supply efficiently,” he said. The fridges can also be used to store energy.

“The surplus electricity produced by solar panels can be used to lower the fridge temperature a few degrees more than necessary to create a thermal energy store which will keep the fridge’s contents cold during the night,” West said.

“Another benefit is that by reducing the amount of electricity required during peak-demand periods, we can avoid the need to build more network infrastructure such as new power stations,” he said, according to a CSIRO statement.

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