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Bill DiBenedetto headshot

Shining Hot to Get It Cold: Unilever Tests Solar-Powered Freezers


Yes, now you can grab an ice cold Popsicle on a hot sunny day while strolling through New York City’s Central Park — from a vendor using a solar-powered ice cream freezer.

The freezers being tested in Central Park operate free of electricity — vendors can even charge their own mobile devices by plugging them into outlets attached to the freezer units.

It seems fitting that Unilever, the world’s largest producer of ice cream, is rolling out the world’s first solar freezers in Central Park to keep those Popsicles, Good Humor or Magnum-brand bars cold while at the same time putting no strain on the environment.

Brandchannel reported the freezers are part of the company’s Sustainable Living Plan, which features a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from refrigeration. “It’s a strategic move for Unilever that already relies on more than two million POS freezers to reach consumers and may become the first commercially-viable solar freezer in the category,” contributor Sheila Shayon wrote.

Unilever committed to purchase 850,000 freezers between 2010 and 2015, but it has already exceeded that goal, buying nearly 1.05 million freezers to date. The freezers, made using recycled materials, reduce energy consumption to less than 0.5 kilowatt-hours per day — equivalent to running a television for about three hours. This in turn reduces the load on national power grids and eliminates the need for producing large quantities of dry ice.

The freezer's efficiency can be monitored on any mobile device — tracking and sharing geo-location data, energy use, cooling performance and supply of products. The company also recently announced new ice cream cabinets for retailers, developed for its Wall's brand, that boast a 70 percent reduction in energy use.

The solar freezers follow Unilever’s efforts to remove the last remaining hydrofluorocarbons-reliant freezers from use. Unilever has been used a climate-friendly hydrocarbon refrigerant alternative since 2004. More recently it has been driving an industry commitment to phase out damaging HFC’s by 2015 through participation in the Consumer Goods Forum.

“We have committed to using refrigerants which have a GWP (global warming potential) of less than three, such as hydrocarbons (HC), CO2, ammonia, water and air, which can all be used as cooling agents in refrigerators and freezers,” Unilever says. “Almost all our production facilities and cold stores already use ammonia in their refrigeration systems. Ammonia has the added benefit of being very energy-efficient for large-scale use.”

Any news that advances the cause of guilt-free ice cream consumption is good news. There’s a kind of natural and spiritual unity in using the sun to freeze your ice cream treat.

Image: Unilever solar ice cream freezer from Unilever website

Bill DiBenedetto headshotBill DiBenedetto

Writer, editor, reader and generally good (okay mostly good, well sometimes good) guy trying to get by.

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