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Palm Springs Air Museum to adopt cutting-edge A/C

June 8, 2012

Palm Springs Air Museum to adopt cutting-edge A/C

Innovative setup uses hot water for air conditioning


The vintage World War II airplanes at the Palm Springs Air Museum will soon have a cutting-edge solar thermal air conditioning system to keep them cool, run almost entirely by hot water.

The technology, called micro-concentrated solar power, or MicroCSP, uses solar thermal troughs to collect and intensify heat from the sun to heat liquid, which will then be used to cool the 22,000-square-foot hangar where the planes are displayed.

The heated liquid is used in a process called absorption refrigeration that requires no electricity or gas to power an air conditioning system, although the Air Museum system will have a natural gas backup generator.

The museum spends about $100,000 a year on electricity, with the lion’s share, 80 percent, going to air conditioning, said Fred Bell, vice chairman of the museum’s board. He expects the new system to cut those costs by at least a quarter, he said.

Bell, who is also chief operating officer of Noble & Co., a Palm Desert solar developer, said his firm has no financial involvement in the project.

The system which could be installed in the fall, is being funded through a $1.5 million investment that Southern California Gas Co. made earlier this year in Sopogy, the Hawaiian company that has developed the system.

Officials for both companies declined to say exactly how much of the investment will be used for the Palm Springs system, which is the first full-scale commercial test of Sopogy’s technology in California.

“The Palm Springs Air Museum demonstration project is a great example of how energy-efficient technologies, renewable solar energy and clean, affordable natural gas can all work together,” said Hal D. Snyder, cq vice president of customer solutions for SoCal Gas.

To date, Sopogy has a total of seven installations worldwide in locations ranging from Texas to Abu Dhabi, cq company officials said.

“Palm Springs is an ideal location for solar power, and we feel a special connection to the Palm Springs Air Museum,” said Darren T. Kimura, Sopogy’s president and CEO.

“Sopogy’s headquarters are around the corner from Pearl Harbor, once home to Wildcats, Flying Fortresses and other WWII fighter planes.”

The solar thermal troughs will be installed in the museum’s north overflow parking lot, and then linked into the existing air conditioners on the hangar.

K Kaufmann covers energy and green technology and health care for The Desert Sun. She can be reached atk.kaufmann@thedesertsun.com or (760) 778-4622

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