Smart fridges to fight global warming

Ozzie scientists invent cool new eco-fridges
Ozzie scientists invent cool new eco-fridges

It sounds like a dumb idea - cool fridges that tackle global warming - but researchers at Australia's national science agency CSIRO have made a network of smart chillers that can do just that.

The fridges can communicate with each other via a network, enabling them collectively share and store the energy provided by renewable-power generators such as solar panels or wind turbines.

"The fridges are designed to talk to each other, negotiating when it's a good time to consume electricity and when it's better not to," says inventor Sam West.

Cool energy-saving kit

"These scheduling decisions improve the quality of electricity produced by renewables and can help increase renewable uptake in the energy market."

During the day, for example, solar cells can be interrupted by cloud cover, giving power fluctuations that can destabilise the power grid and even cause blackouts. The fridges can help smooth out these fluctuations if they turn on and off at the right time.

"The fridges are able to anticipate power shortages and change their running schedules to use as little power as possible during these times," says West.

The surplus electricity produced by solar panels can also be used to lower the temperature of the fridges a few degrees more than necessary to create a thermal energy store. This will keep the fridge's contents cold for the night.

The result? Cold, cold beer on Australia's hottest days, without the carbon footprint to match.

Mark Harris is Senior Research Director at Gartner.