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2021 Winner: Coldbox Store

2021 Renewable Transformation Challenge prize awarded to Coldbox Store, a Nigerian solar-powered system reducing food waste and its climate impacts

2021 Winner: Coldbox Store

The Renewable Transformation Challenge recognizes and honors outstanding work encouraging progress towards a world powered by renewable energy and with accessible energy for all.

(Uzochukwu Mbamalu working to install a solar module (photo credit: Coldbox Store)

Food waste is a significant driver in climate change — 6% of all global greenhouse emissions come from the production of food that is never eatenopens in new tab/window. This creates a vicious cycle of more extreme climate, that makes food production more difficult, and exacerbates the human tool of poverty, malnutrition, and inequality.

There are solutions out there to address this problem, and this year the Renewable Transformation Challenge honors one of them. 50% of fruits and vegetables produced in Nigeria are never consumed due to post-harvest losses, and more suffers from poor storage conditions that reduces what farmers can charge for their products. Uzochukwu Mbamalu and their team at Coldbox Store was set out to address these problems by reducing post-harvest losses, helping rural farmers maximize the value of their products, and reducing the environmental impacts of their work.

“Coldbox Store is a walk-in, commercial, refrigeration solution that can store up to 15 tons of fruits and vegetables at a time. This can increase the shelf life of fresh produce such as the tomato from 2 to 21 days. It is an efficient refrigeration system that uses solar-power for precooling and cold storage. The system is designed to be completely off-grid as Solar PV powers the entire solution,” said Uzochukwu Mbamalu.

A Coldbox Store installation in Nigeria (photo credit: Coldbox Store)

A Coldbox Store installation in Nigeria (photo credit: Coldbox Store)

The Renewable Transformation Challenge, launched in 2017, aims to honor and showcase outstanding work that actively supports the transformation to a world powered by renewable energy and has potential to widen access to energy, particularly in developing countries. The challenge was open to individuals and organizations in both not-for-profit and commercial sectors worldwide. Over 85 entries were received which were scored in terms of applicability, impact, sustainability and scalability in two stages: first by the Juror Panel, and then by the Elsevier-ISES Awards Committee who selected the final winner from the ten shortlisted candidatesopens in new tab/window.

Klaus Vajen, President of ISES said “Since the launch of the Renewable Transformation Challenge in 2017, we have seen hundreds of applications from around the world, the best of which reflect incredible work being done by organizations, businesses and research institutions to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. The RTC aims to highlight the many programs that help move the world toward an energy system supplied entirely by renewable energy sources and provide access to reliable renewable energy. As the President of ISES and member of the jury, I was impressed by the level of commitment and innovation of this year’s applications and it is inspiring to see real-world projects that utilize solar energy as the most reliable and affordable energy source. We are very pleased to be awarding the prize to the Coldbox Store team, whose project offers an innovative and replicable solution to address food waste through solar energy technologies. Engr. Mbamalu and his team have implemented a project that improves lives while addressing climate change.”

Peter Harrison, Senior Vice President, Physical Sciences Journals at Elsevier said “Coldbox Store demonstrates powerfully how addressing climate change through renewable energy transformations can lead to positive changes in so many other ways: lifting people out of poverty; reducing waste; and feeding those in need. Elsevier is proud to award Uzochukw Mbamalu’s team for their work, which was the standout entry among many strong applications. We’d like to thank our partners at the International Solar Energy Society and the judges and jury for their thoughtful consideration.”

Coldbox store was announced as the winner at an online event hosted by the International Solar Energy Society, a recording of which will be posted hereopens in new tab/window.

A Coldbox Store installation in Nigeria (photo credit: Coldbox Store)

A Coldbox Store installation in Nigeria (photo credit: Coldbox Store)

Top 10 entries

The following entries to the 2021 Renewable Transformation Challenge were selected as the top 10 (in alphabetical order):

Captive solar energy for the agri-food sector - Austria

Agriculture is a key sector of the Ugandan economy and beyond as 80% of the working population is dependent on agriculture for their livelihood. Together with local partners in Uganda, this project develops, implements and operates system solutions for the agri-food sector. Food processing and solar energy know-how is transferred, adapted to local needs and responsibility for the complete supply chain is acquired ­starting with certified organic agriculture, food processing, solar energy supply till sales.

Coldbox Store - Nigeria

Coldbox Store is an efficient, walk-in, commercial, refrigeration solution that can store up to 15 tons of fruits and vegetables at a time. The system uses one solar-powered compressor for precooling and cold storage and is designed to be completely off-grid as Solar PV powers the entire solution. Designed after engaging with farmers and Agribusinesses in Nigeria's fruit and vegetable supply chain, this project addresses the problems of post-harvest losses and the inability of farmers to access high value markets on time.

Cooling as a Service - Switzerland

Cooling as a Service (CaaS) is an innovative business model that aims to make energy-efficient cooling more competitive and affordable by enabling customers to outsource cooling services, rather than investing in the equipment. End-customers pay for the cooling they receive, rather than the physical product. CaaS is a disruptive solution with the potential to rapidly accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy in which cooling is accessible to all.

Harnessing Solar Energy in Yemen - United Arab Emirates

ITDC's Solar Program focuses on helping Yemenis harness the significant solar energy available in their country by equipping rural communities with needed technical knowledge, practical experience and hands on skills. The Alternative Energy Course teaches participants how to design, install and maintain photovoltaic systems and build solar cookers. The course is designed to enable Yemenis with minimal education and no prior technical expertise to become solar technicians, to correct faulty designs, and to build systems that last for decades.

I Lit My Community - Ghana

The "I lit my community" project was launched by E-Cycle Ghana, an NGO. This project was aimed at helping the hard-working youth to think and design solutions to some of the alarming problems in their communities, particularly in the power system. E-Cycle is an electronic waste recycling company, that turns this waste into power storage, security, cooling, and sound systems vantage points in the community.

Make refrigeration affordable & accessible to all - France

Koolboks has created the Koolhome, a Pay As You Go solar-powered refrigerator that also provides LED lighting and USB ports specifically for the sub-Saharan African market. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Koolboks spearheaded an effort to inspire people in Nigeria who lost their jobs due to launch frozen food businesses using solar refrigeration. Our main goal is to create a sustainable model to finance off-grid solar refrigerators to rural markets and communities that need them the most.

Solar Freeze - Kenya

Solar Freeze Ltd is a social enterprise working in Kenya and a pioneer in solar-powered cold storage products and services for the storage of food and medical products and temperature sensitive vaccines. The project's goal is to help off-grid and weak-grid communities access reliable and effective cold storage solutions for as little as $0.1 cents per day. The team offers remote monitoring of the solar refrigeration units giving clinics real-time technical support for critical vaccine and medication storage.

SunShine4All - Circularity on PV to 100% RES - Mexico

This project aims to democratize access to clean and sustainable energy systems by implementing a transformative circular economy in the PV supply chain in Mexico. By 2030, 6.500 tons of PV panels will become electronic waste in Mexico and nearly 180.000 tons within the Americas. This huge environmental concern can be transformed into a solution for energy poverty by SunShine4Alls innovative alternative for the PV value chain. The applicability of PV technologies can be expanded to vulnerable sectors and people, supporting a green and sustainable recovery, while providing a creative way of dealing with the PV waste issue.

SUN-to-LIQUID - solar liquid hydrocarbon fuels - Switzerland

This project developed a technology to transform the aviation energy base to 100% renewable drop-in fuels and thus to minimize the carbon footprint of the aviation sector at the global scale. It uses abundant feedstocks water, CO2 and solar energy without conflict with arable land. The core conversion technology is a thermochemical redox cycle driven by concentrated solar energy, utilizing the entire solar spectrum and operating at thermodynamically efficient high temperatures to co-split water and CO2 into high-quality synthesis gas that is further processed to clean hydrocarbon fuels.

We Care Solar - USA

The “Light Every Birth” initiative ensures that Safe Motherhood programs prioritize clean, reliable electricity and is being adopted by governments in East and West Africa. The We Care Solar Suitcase provides health centers with reliable power for medical lighting, emergency communication and medical devices, and creates an enabling environment to underserved health centers, facilitating timely, safe, and appropriate emergency obstetric care and improving childbirth outcomes for mothers and newborns. Collaborating with international partners, we provide capacity-building training to local technicians on solar installation, usage and maintenance to ensure maximum effectiveness.