You are on page 1of 4

Portable Solar Powered Air-Cooling Unit

A. Liam McTaggart , B. Mackenzie Hill, C. Chris Packman, D. Rony Shohet

Supervisor: Dr. Jacob Freidman

2. Establishment of Requirements
The purpose of this endeavor was to
conceptualize a viable solar-powered system Research was conducted to understand the current
capable of cooling a medical shelter up to situation in disaster relief efforts. It was found that
576ft2 in the fallout of a disaster. The scope of there were no standard hospital shelters for use in
this report mainly encompasses the analysis and disaster situations by aid efforts. In addition, it was
determination of requirements for a worst- found that shelters are selected based on the medical
case cooling scenario, and the subsequent requirements of each situation individually, and are
design process used in sizing and configuring a supplied by a variety of sources based on
system capable of meeting these demands. The availability. A 576-square foot spun-polyester
final design incorporates a collapsible solar insulated hospital tent was selected as a benchmark
photovoltaic array in conjunction with a battery [1]. This was decided based on a review of available
bank, inverter system, and 3.5-ton air-cooling hospital shelters, and it was determined that this was
unit. The effectiveness of the solar panels, large enough to be considered the worst-case
batteries and the subsequent powering of the scenario cooling demand for this design.
air-cooling unit was verified by using eQuest
and TRNSYS. Through iterations, the solar Next, research was made focusing the areas affected
powered cooling unit was conceptualized to by natural disaster with the highest frequency and
have 20 solar panels, cover 360 ft2 and 20 magnitude. It was found that areas in Southern Asia
batteries, outputting 1000 watt-hours. are affected more than any other region in the world.
Bangladesh was chosen as the benchmark location
1. Introduction for which this design was to meet, as its hot climate
and frequency of natural disaster make it a probable
Organizations such as the Red Cross are crucial area for which a system such as this would be used.
to the recovery of those affected by disaster, It was decided that the ideal system should be
providing medical aid and supplies to the capable of cooling the selected shelter to within
displaced and injured locals. In many cases, human comfort levels for all hours of the day in this
environmental conditions of hospital shelters region.
can be quite bothersome for the doctors and
patients. Generators are currently used to power 3. Solar Energy Research
air-cooling systems, but require a reliable
source of diesel fuel, which is not always The two main types of solar energy generation were
feasible. Moreover, diesel generators produce a found to be solar thermal and solar photovoltaic.
high level of noise and harmful combustion Although solar thermal systems do provide a higher
gases, and must be placed a significant distance energy production density (efficiency), they produce
from the shelter for which they are intended. only low-exergy thermal energy. Heat driven
The purpose of this undertaking was to chilling systems were found to be unsuitable for this
conceptualize and design a viable system to application due to their lack of portability and low-
meet the cooling demand of a field hospital, durability. It was therefore decided that the system
using incident solar radiation as the only source used to meet the requirements of this design should
of energy. This process was meant to focus make use of a photovoltaic array in conjunction with
primarily on the cooling load and power design batteries and a conventional vapor-compression air-
of this system, and to conceptualize a viable cooling unit, as these systems are generally more
physical configuration. The manufacturability, scalable, versatile, and durable.
structural analysis, and detailed cost
considerations for this design were considered
beyond the scope of this design stage.
4. Preliminary Cooling Analysis and Load

The first step of the analysis process was to

determine the approximate cooling load, which
could be used to select a suitable air-cooling
unit. This was a necessary first step, since
specifications of the unit were needed in order
to proceed with a more detailed transient

After an unsuccessful attempt at applying the Figure 1 Cool-Air ACI3.5H21 [1]

ASHRAE manual J process (cooling load) to 6. eQuest Simulation
the selected shelter, a document created by
Malcolm Pilsworth for the U.S. Army was Following the selection of the air cooling unit, it
referred to [2]. Although the document was was necessary to determine the hourly electrical
created with the intent of sizing a tent heating demand from the power system. eQuest was used
system, it was found that the same process for this process, incorporating the weather data from
could be applied to the heat gain for a tent as Dhaka, Bangladesh, and applying it to a model of
well. Using the Equations and assumptions the shelter in question.
outlined in this document, it was determined
that the required steady-state cooling load for A physical model of the tent of width 18 feet, by
the selected shelter in 105oF outdoor width 32 feet, with a maximum height of 15 feet.
temperatures was approximately 36,000 Btu/h. The cotton and polyester roof/walls were modelled
using materials creating an equivalent insulation
5. Cooling and Power System Concepts value of 1.75 (ftFh/Btu). Being paired with a
3.5-ton air conditioning unit with a COP of 3.1 [1],
After an investigation of available systems the maximum cooling load for each month was
capable of meeting this demand, it was determined.
determined that either a single 3-3.5 ton
alternating current (AC) unit, or two 1.5-2 ton
Figure 2 shows the peak monthly peak electric
direct current (DC) units would be most
suitable. Each of these concepts had their demand based on the eQuest simulation.
merits. An alternating current system would
require an inverter, adding extra inefficiencies
due to electrical losses, but would enable the
use of excess power by other AC devices. A DC
system would not require an inverter, and
would allow for higher efficiencies due to the
possibility for variable compressor speeds, but
would likely require a more advanced control
system. It was decided based on the necessity
for additional power use from other devices in a
medical environment, and the added costs of
having parallel DC units, that the AC concept
would be most suitable.
A constraint brought forth by the usage scenario
was that the condenser of the system would Figure 2 Peak Monthly Electric Demand
need to be air-cooled, since there would be no
source of available cooling water. Upon further 7. Power System Component Selection
investigation, it was decided that the best
system for this application was the Cool-AirTM It was next necessary to select models for the major
ACI3.5H21. This 3.5 ton (42000Btu/h) unit has components of the power system such as the solar
an associated coefficient of performance (COP) panel information, the type and model of batteries,
of approximately 3.2, and requires a single- and the inverter. After an investigation into the
phase input of 3.7kW.
available hardware, the following components of no cooling, due to an obvious increase in solar
were selected. The rationale behind the radiation per day.
selection of the
8. Simulation Using TRNSYS

The simulated hourly electrical demand was

obtained from eQuest was imported into
TRNSYS, a simulation tool used for renewable
energy modelling. The main components used
within TRNSYS include, Type-94a, Type-48c,
Type-47a, and Type-9, which are the
photovoltaic solar panels, regulator/inverter,
battery bank, and the cooling load input,
respectively. The configuration of the Figure 5 Power to Unit for Iran
respective components are shown in Figure 3,
Therefore, despite the obvious lack of cooling in
as to show the theoretical design of unit.
Dhaka, the comparison of the two cities shows that
the unit is still highly effective for cooling if there is
sufficient solar radiation per day.

9. Mechanical Design

Although the primary scope of this effort was to

determine a suitable cooling and power system
Figure 3 TRNSYS Process Layout configuration for the design, a mechanical concept
was created in an effort to determine a viable
The outputs were selected as such to show the embodiment of these systems. Following
amount of electricity produced and its considerations of usage scenarios, portability
effectiveness at cooling the tent. These include, constraints, and evaluation of preliminary concepts,
the power produced by the solar panels at a final configuration was determined. Seen in Figure
maximum power point, the battery charge and 6, the design featured a retractable solar array able
discharge rate, and the effectiveness of the to fit onto a medium sized flatbed trailer. To
powering the load. Figure 4 shows the power maximize panel area and minimize set-up time, the
that is produced and its ability to provide design makes use of gas-struts to assist with the
electricity to the unit. lifting action of the folding portion, as well as heavy
duty sliders for additional arrays.

Figure 4 Power to Unit for Bangladesh

It was noted that due to constraints with the
design, including an occasional lack of solar
radiation and the design of the inverter, this
creates days of absolutely no cooling. In total,
there was 28 days of no cooling, mostly due to
the 3 hours of usable solar radiation. Therefore,
a comparison was done with a city in Iran, to Figure 6 Render of Final Concept
investigate whether or not the design would
provide sufficient power if there was more solar
radiation. Figure 5 shows a significant
improvement, where there was roughly 5 days
10. Conclusions and Recommendations

According to the analyses conducted, the

designed configuration would generate enough
power to charge the batteries and power the
cooling unit for the greater majority of the year.
However, due to the extremely high cloud cover
in Bangladesh over the summer months, the
default set point temperature would not be
reached during certain peak cooling hours. It is
important to note, however, that this was
considered the worst case scenario. For the
clear majority of applications, this design would
adequately meet the cooling requirements for
emergency shelters, as well as power additional
peripheries as required. The next step of this
process would be to further optimize the power
and control systems, as well as to perform a
detailed dynamic stress analysis of the
structural design, optimizing dimensions and
materials as necessary. Finally, cost is an
important consideration for any design
endeavor, as it largely dictates the viability of
the project. This is extremely important, as
although batteries and photovoltaics have
become increasingly less expensive in recent
years, a significant further cost reduction would
be required prior to this design becoming


The authors would like to acknowledge Dr.

Jacob Friedman for his support and guidance
throughout the semester. The team members
would also like to extend their thanks towards
their families and friends that have assisted with
their development throughout the years.

[1] Cool-Air, "Cool Air AC3.5H21," Cool-Air
Rentals Ltd., [Online]. Available:

[2] M. N. Pilsworth, "The Calculation of Heat

Loss From Tents," United States Army
Natick Research and Developement
Command, Natick, Massachusetts, 1978.

[3] "UN RELIEF-18'WX32'LX15'H," Rhino

Shelter, [Online]. Available:
[Accessed April 2017].