Solar panels being installed; Solar panels being installed;

Solar Air Conditioning Sizing Tool, Global

How can digital tools support the transition to more sustainable energy in remote locations?

Air conditioning is critical in the remote locations where Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) provides aid, especially where medical needs call for controlled temperatures, such as in pharmacies, operating theatres and laboratories. As a result, it accounts for 35-55% of their total CO2 emissions at program level, as the organisation often relies on diesel generators due to the lack of access to grid electricity.

To reduce their dependence on diesel and consequently decrease the carbon footprint of their operations, MSF identified an AC unit which could be powered using solar energy. However, challenges remained around how to plan for and install the units in different contexts. The MSF Sweden Innovation Unit (SIU) approached Arup to help find a digital solution to these problems.  

Project Summary

1-2.5 tons CO2 saved yearly by each solar AC unit

35-55% of MSF’s CO2 emissions result from air conditioning use

An MSF team installing solar panels An MSF team installing solar panels
An MSF team installing solar panels. ©Per-Erik Eriksson/MSF

A data driven approach to solar power 

Arup collaborated with the SIU to create a Solar Air Conditioning Sizing Tool that will help NGOs and others working in remote locations to conduct high-level feasibility assessments for the installation of solar-powered AC systems. By analysing data about the location, external temperature, and diesel costs, as well as information specific to the room including desired temperature, operating hours and size, the tool calculates the equipment required, the level of investment needed, and the environmental impact compared with traditional AC.  

Importantly, this level of automation means that no technical knowledge is required to use the tool. Anyone can input the data needed, helping them to choose a more sustainable and economic temperature control solution, and speeding up the scaling of solar AC use. This structured method also encourages users to learn more about parameters that might affect heating and cooling, which has boosted learning about passive cooling solutions across MSF. 

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Shortlisted in the New Civil Engineer TechFest Award as the Best Use of Technology: Carbon Reduction