In yet another display of the speed with which it is surpassing the U.S. and Europe in pursuit of renewable technology, China has revealed a low-cost way to transform the hot sun into cool air.
Attendees of the 2010 World Solar-Powered Air Conditioning Development Forum in Dezhou were among the first to sneak a peek at the prototype of the world's only directly solar-powered air conditioning unit.
Some experts suggest that up to 20 percent of the average American electric bill is used to power single room and central air conditioning units. According to Qin Hong, deputy director of the Ministry of Urban-Rural Development's Center for Policy Studies, this statistic is even higher in China, with energy consumption by air conditioning units accounting for about 60 percent of the electricity used in most buildings.
As the world's largest producer, consumer, and user of solar power, China's solar power industry already lays claim to 76 percent of the world's market. However, currently, most of China's solar power development and use comprised of solar-powered water heating units.
The solar-powered air conditioning unit revealed by Shandong Vicot Air Conditioning Co., Ltd. boasts an optimal 85 percent thermal cooling conversion efficiency while allowing for 24-hour continuous cooling, heating, and supply of hot water. On cloudy days, natural gas can be used as a supplemental source of power.
"This solar-powered air conditioning unit is...a fine example of globally cutting-edge technology. Solar-powered air conditioning units can be widely used in low-carbon buildings, and its cost is relatively low, so in 3.5 years, the unit's initial investment can be recouped, and in 6.7, the entire investment can be recovered," remarked Shandong Vicot Air Conditioning Co., Ltd.'s president Li Wen.
As of yet, there is no word about if or when the air conditioning unit will be available to commercial and residential consumers, or if it will be exported to the United States.