Solar Biomass Hybrid Cold Storage-cum Power Generation System

Sponsor: Ministry of New and Renewable Energy

Duration: 3 years

Key Stakeholder/Beneficiaries: Farmers, fruit and vegetable supply chains, fruit and vegetable exporters


To develop a solar-cum-biomass based cooling system for village level cold storages in addition to providing electricity to the village.

The Project

  • A 15 kW capacity Vapor Absorption Machine (VAM) will provide cooling to almost 25 tonnes of fruits and vegetables in the cold storage.
  • Apart from providing cooling, the system will also generate 50 kW of electrical power, which can be used for village electrification.
  • The energy demand for the cold storage and power generation will be met using concentrating solar collectors and TERI’s biomass gasifier.
  • A small capacity VAM is being developed for the first time.
  • Hour-by-hour simulations of the system have been carried out using TRNSYS® simulation software. Optimization of system components has also been undertaken for efficient system performance.
  • Long-term monitoring of system performance is envisaged to refine future system configurations.

The waste heat is used to run a 15 kWth Vapor Absorption Machine to provide 
cooling in the cold storage.

50 kWe Biomass Gasifier system

India is the second largest producer of fruits and vegetables in the world. Horticulture provides 6.5% of the country’s GDP, 13% of employment and accounts for over 9% of Indian exports with only 9% crop acreage. However, about one-third of the harvested fruits and vegetables, worth Rs 60,000 crore (US$ 12 billion), are lost due to lack of post-harvest handling and storage. Cold storage facilities for Indias agricultural produce are falling short by more than 10 million tonnes. Additionally, the cold storages in India consume 30,000 MW of the installed power capacity and energy expenses account for 28% of costs in cold storage.

It supplements the engine exhaust heat to run the Vapor Absorption Machine

The Scheffler dish system

By virtue of its geographical location, India receives ample sunlight throughout the year. Hence, solar energy can be put to effective use in solar-powered cold storages that are best suited for remote areas. With this idea, TERI has begun work to develop solar-cum biomass-based cooling systems for village-level cold storages. A biomass gasifier, installed in the village would provide electricity and the heat from the gasifier would be cooled and used for the cold storage. This would help target the need for both cold storage and electricity supply. This project is financed by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), Government of India, along with the Government of Australia and Sustainability Victoria, Australia.TERI is working in partnership with Solar Energy Centre, MNRE and Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia; with Thermax, India and Rinnai, Australia as industry partners.

Solar biomass hybrid cold storage-cum power generation system for rural applications

Solar Cooling Schematic

TERI’s biomass gasifier has been coupled with Thermax’s newly developed vapor absorption machine of just 15 kW cooling capacity and concentrating solar dishes. This system can provide clean power and cold storage facility for about 25 tones of fruits or vegetables. Since the cold storage can be cooled to temperature as low as 0 degree C, a wide variety of fruit, vegetables, and horticulture produce can be stored in it. The system also provides 50 kW electrical power, enough to provide grid quality power to domestic, community, as well as productive loads in a typical village. The first pilot system has been installed at Solar Energy Center in Gurgaon and is operational for the past two months. The system is being monitored to optimise it.

Successful implementation of this system can open avenues for its replication in other parts of India and thus help in both saving valuable agricultural produce and also towards village electrification. The ways in which electricity can enrich rural lives cannot really be substantiated. The renewable energy based lighting will not only improve lives but also allows for better education avenues for children as well as social interaction. Moreover electricity provides much needed support to essential community applications like primary health centers and ICT based rural knowledge centres. The cold store, on the other hand, will provide the farmers a leverage to sell their crops at a better price as they will not have to resort to distress sales for the fear of spoilage of produce. The cold storage along with available electrical power opens up currently non-existent avenues for income generation. TERI’s efforts are now focused on creating sustainable business models so that these systems can be run by communities at village level. This would lead to further creation of employment opportunities and rural development.

About Ritesh Pothan

Ritesh Pothan, is an accomplished speaker and visionary in the Solar Energy space in India. Ritesh is from an Engineering Background with a Master’s Degree in Technology and had spent more than a decade as the Infrastructure Head for a public limited company with the last 9 years dedicated to Solar and Renewable Energy. He also runs the 2 largest India focused renewable energy groups on LinkedIn - Solar - India and Renewables - India
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