The capacity to deliver continuous electricity for refrigeration is one of the central planks of the modern-day food distribution system.
Using fossil fuel-generated energy to refrigerate and freeze foods around the clock produces a lot of pollution – carbon and greenhouse gas emissions that are warming the global climate, as well as emissions of a range of potentially toxic chemicals that deplete the ozone layer and wind up in our waterways and soil.
Enter Berkeley, California-based Axiom Energy and its Refrigeration Battery: a water- and ice-based backup cooling system designed for use in large supermarkets and food distribution facilities. The system is now available in California, Axiom announced last week.
The system offers “behind the meter," or customer-sited, energy storage -- enabling supermarkets and food distributors to store energy at night when demand and utility rates are low and use it for cooling and refrigeration during peak daytime hours when rates are high. This affords these businesses substantial cost savings and hence high returns of investment, Axiom says. Along with the financial gains come substantial health and environmental benefits.
Large commercial refrigerators commonly used in grocery stores can consume up to 17,000 kilowatt-hours of energy per year. A large commercial freezer can use up to 38,000 kWh, according to the DOE. Axiom points out that refrigeration costs make up over 50 percent of a typical supermarket's electricity bill. With the capacity to store energy for 6 to 12 hours, its Refrigeration Battery can “shave” peak electricity demand at supermarkets and large food distributors by as much 40 percent,” the company claims.
The winner of the Venture Capitalists Choice award at the 2014 Cleantech Open Accelerator, Axiom says its battery “solves a major technical problem that businesses with high refrigeration loads have to been unable to address until now: the inability to actively manage unintelligent refrigeration systems.” By installing the Refrigeration Battery, supermarkets and food distributors can essentially transform “their refrigeration systems into large-scale, cloud-connected, smart energy storage resources.”
“Supermarkets and cold-storage facilities must keep perishable food at a constant temperature around the clock, which means they must run power-hungry refrigeration equipment even when electricity prices skyrocket during the peak hours of the afternoon. Until now, this has been a huge, unavoidable cost that erodes their razor-thin profit margins — that’s where we come in,” Amrit Robbins, Axiom Energy's president, stated.
The Refrigeration Battery stores energy for later use in refrigeration by freezing a tank of water “with common additives at night when electricity is inexpensive,” Axiom explains. The energy storage system can then be discharged during peak periods of electricity demand in the afternoon. This enables supermarkets and food distributors to turn off their refrigeration systems' compressors and condensers.
With a lifespan that at 30 years – many times that for traditional batteries – and an installed cost that Axiom asserts is significantly lower than any alternatives available, the company is keen to prove the Refrigeration Battery's touted benefits in the market, Robbins added. “We believe we are the only viable energy storage solution for facilities that depend on refrigeration."
Axiom highlights the Refrigeration Battery's key attributes in a press release:
“It looks like Axiom Exergy has finally cracked the nut and potentially even solved a bigger problem — low-cost backup cooling. The Refrigeration Battery represents a major advancement in an industry that hasn't changed much in decades."
*Image credits: 1) Energy.gov; 2) Axiom Energy
An experienced, independent journalist, editor and researcher, Andrew has crisscrossed the globe while reporting on sustainability, corporate social responsibility, social and environmental entrepreneurship, renewable energy, energy efficiency and clean technology. He studied geology at CU, Boulder, has an MBA in finance from Pace University, and completed a certificate program in international governance for biodiversity at UN University in Japan.