The University has developed the world’s first solar-powered refrigerated lorry, harnessing energy from the sun to help reduce the carbon footprint of our food distribution system.
With around 650,000 refrigerated road vehicles in the EU and an estimated 1.2 million worldwide, a switch to solar-powered refrigeration units could mean considerable reductions in the emissions that contribute to global warming.
In 1997, a team from Southampton’s Sustainable Energy Research Group collaborated with retailers Sainsbury’s to develop a solar-powered refrigeration unit that could be installed on an articulated vehicle.
Power for the refrigeration unit is generated by photovoltaic panels mounted on the trailer's roof, and an on-board battery stores excess power for use by the refrigeration system during the hours of darkness.
The team demonstrated that, by improving the trailer's insulation and evaporator design, the solar-powered refrigeration unit used considerably less energy than a standard diesel-driven unit. The design enables the trailer to keep operating throughout the year.
The refrigerated lorry is just one of many renewable energy projects being undertaken by the Sustainable Energy Research Group. Other innovations in solar power include photovoltaic roof tiles and the development of a low-cost alternative to traditional solar cells.
As part of the University’s commitment to minimising its own carbon footprint, the team has also designed and installed three permanently grid-connected photovoltaic systems on the University’s Highfield Campus.