India has been making phenomenal growth and occupying the top three positions in the production of horticulture produce, and dairy and meat products over the last decades. The nation produces more than 400 million metric tons of perishables, including horticultural produce, dairy, meat, poultry, and fish. However, India’s share in global farm trade is limited. This is due to the inadequate cold chain infrastructure of the nation which results in an annual loss of $11,71 billion in agricultural production and $6.38 billion in fruits and vegetables, meat fish, and dairy.
Perishables especially horticultural and floricultural produces need a cooling temperature between 0°C – 15°C throughout the supply chain from storage to transportation. However, the lack of farm-level cold storage often increases the spoilage rate.
Resilient cold chain solutions – a necessity in India is often not met due to high electrical energy consumption rates in the commercial building sector. Thus, there is a dire need for a more efficient and cost-effective cold room solution.
Meeting the criteria and providing a cost-effective power solution for cold storage facilities in India is solar-powered cold storage.
Solar-powered cold storage enables the farm-level cold chain and extends the shelf life of perishables & reduces spoilage which in turn improves the farmer’s income. Moreover, it will also allow aggregation & reduce transportation bottlenecks during the peak production period.
Solar-powered cold storage can also reduce grid dependency as the stored solar energy will be used for cooling during non-solar hours. And in case the thermal energy storage depletes below the minimum, the system can be switched to grid electricity.
These storages are modular, portable, and can be integrated to increase capacity. quickly deployable with minimum civil work requirements at the site, solar storage units can be moved from one place to another with ease.
Furthermore, they provide a temperature range of 0°C – 20°C, which allows easy preservation of perishables and allows one to customize the cold storage room for long-term storage of grains and pulses.
Solar-powered cold storage is not only efficient but also cost-effective. According to industry insiders, the cost of a five metric ton solar-powered cold storage unit ranges between INR 12 lakh to INR 15 lakh.
On average, cold storage with 7000 metric ton capacity spends INR 25 lakh to meet its power requirement ranging somewhere between 320kWh to 600kWh. By leveraging solar energy storage units companies can cut their power bills in half.
A Switch to Solar-Powered Cold Storage: Pursue or Refrain?
Curbing food wastage, ensuring food security in the nation, increasing the shelf life of perishables, ensuring steady cooling in areas with grid instability, and reducing the power bill are all the boxes that solar-powered cold storage checks evidently. On top of it, they also increase the profitability for stakeholders. This makes the switch an attractive as well as a wise choice.
Such units are gradually picking up pace with companies and government agencies promoting the new and more cost-effective and efficient solution.
The Indian wing of Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), a Germany-based development agency, in November last year, floated a tender for ten solar-powered cold storage units in Karnataka and Maharashtra to reduce COVID-19-related agricultural losses.
In 2020, the Odisha Renewable energy Development Agency also invited interested bidders to install ten solar-powered cold storage units.
We believe that with time, a larger group of people will switch to this smarter alternative, which will give rise to more advanced cooling rooms entering the market, and widen the application of solar cold rooms in India’s food processing value chain.