Viking launches solar-and-cold-storage combo

By Jason Deign

Viking Cold Solutions, a US thermal energy storage start-up, is launching what is likely the world’s first solar-plus-cold-storage combination at Hannover Messe, Germany, this week.

Pic: Viking Cold is aiming to tie its phase-change material cold storage with solar.

Viking Cold is aiming to tie its phase-change material cold storage with solar. Photo: Viking Cold.

Energy Storage Report understands the offering is not so much an integrated product as a concept aimed at raising awareness of the efficiency of cold storage over batteries.

Using cold storage with grid power can improve the efficiency of energy use by up to 34%, Viking Cold claimed.

Combined with solar, it could cut ongoing energy costs much further while providing a quicker return on investment (ROI) than batteries, the company said.

“We aim for a three-year payback,” said James Bell, president and CEO. “Our return on investment is based on energy savings. The bigger the facility, the bigger the savings. It can be tens of thousands of dollars a year.”

Better return on larger projects

The ROI could be even better for cold storage installations that qualify for energy efficiency grants or subsidies, he noted. “And since we pair well with renewables it increases the ROI on these as well.”

The launch at the Hanover Fair, the world’s biggest industrial show, should serve as a European calling card for Viking following the company’s early success in the US.

“We’re already in talks with a number of [European] companies,” Bell said.

The company is launching its phase-change material (PCM)-based cold storage to European audiences after gaining a foothold in the US and Puerto Rico, where the company’s founder, Paul Robbins, has commercial interests.

In fact, much of the early growth of the company was due to Robbins’ links to the frozen goods logistics industry.

Focused on the shipping space

Robbins is president of Caribbean Shipping Services, a chilled commodities shipping firm that operates a 7,900m2 temperature-controlled warehouse in Jacksonville, Florida, USA.

“We were originally focused on the shipping space,” said Bell.

Today Viking Cold works with around 20 customers, including V. Suárez and Plaza Provision, two of Puerto Rico’s largest commercial groups, and three major grocery chains in the US.

“Our biggest expansion is in California, where we are working with utilities to install [cold storage] alongside renewables,” Bell said. “Our view is that Europe is also a great fit for our technology.”

The company’s PCM cold storage is essentially “highly engineered salt water,” said Bell.

Precise mixes of salt

Viking Cold uses precise mixes of salt to bring the melting point of ice down to as low as -30ºC, with the exact level determined by the application in question.

Using low-cost or renewable energy to bring the PCM down to freezing can then allow goods to be kept cold with ice for up to 12 hours.

Ultimately this may limit the technology’s ability to provide fully off-grid cooling in many European countries since in the UK, for example, there are only six months a year with more than 12 hours of daylight a day.

On the plus side, however, the PCM can cycle as often as needed and “lasts a minimum of 20 years,” Bell said.

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