Cooling technology is still a major cost factor in food retail. Just in supermarkets alone, cooling systems are responsible for 40 to 60 percent of the power consumption. Nicolas Wagner, Director of Sales and Cooling Technology Retail Support with cooling systems specialist Carel, explains in our current EuroShop.de interview why retailers increasingly rely on integrated cooling systems and what role modern technology plays in energy consumption and in terms of sustainability.
Mr. Wagner, what special requirements does retail have for cooling technology, compared to industrial enterprises for example?
The difference compared to industrial cooling technology is the complexity and redundancy of cooling systems in the industry. Retail on the other hand, focuses on simplicity and a high repetition factor. This is realized through a modular design of systems engineering and control systems, which also facilitates quick, comprehensive service.
Retail today is also focusing on sustainability. How does modern cooling technology help to increase energy efficiency and save costs?
Today’s trend at discount stores as well as with hypermarket solutions is headed towards integrated technology. The heat that is being produced during the cooling process can be reused as heat energy at least in the colder regions of Europe. Cooling technology will be increasingly seen as an all-rounder in the supermarket area. Modern cooling technology –supported by network control technology – provides the best prerequisites to optimally link and optimize the sections energetically.
Recently alternative cooling agents like CO2 have become popular. Some companies use brine as a coolant solution for example. What advantages do the different alternatives offer?
CO2 is definitely an excellent choice as a transcritical option considering global warming potential, that being greenhouse gas emissions. However, it is still not applicable as a refrigerant in this version in all regions of the world. Today, special methods are used to minimize the pressure ratio towards given certain operating conditions. Since R-404A can soon no longer be used as a refrigerant, CO2 has been able to establish itself well in different versions of the entire installation. Investment costs per cooling unit have drastically decreased by now and the technology has also become more manageable. Installation cost of a CO2 facility however is still very high and expensive compared to a traditional facility.
The deciding advantage of using glycol brine as a technology for cooling is that you need to use lesser amounts of it. A hypothetical water quench produces the cooling effect in this case, which can be carried out with any type of cooling agent as a main carrier. This includes natural refrigerants such as propane, propylene, CO2 or other, conventional refrigerants. The installation effort is also very high in this case, but it does not require the same degree of experience and effort as with conventional refrigerant systems.
However, the trend shifts to conventional refrigeration systems with CO2. Time will tell which of the two systems will prevail.