Solar Drying the Delicious Food We Eat Everyday
Many of the world’s most important crops need to be dried to remove moisture as part of the production process. Removing the moisture from crops such a coffee beans, tea leaves, cocoa, nuts, fruit, rice, corn, spices and herbs is an essential process that helps transform the raw goods into the final product we all consume. It is also extremely resource intensive when using mechanical drying methods that rely on wood, propane or oil. In more traditional drying operations, it is common for produce to be passively air-dried in the sun, which takes significantly longer than mechanical drying and can lead to a higher rate of spoilage, mycotoxins and uneven moisture levels.
Incorporating solar into a drying operation produces a double-benefit in terms of improving both the process of drying and the final product.
The SolarWall technology can heat large volumes of incoming air up to 55°C (100°F) above ambient, making it ideally suited for many crop drying applications. In a conventional active drying system, the SolarWall component can either act as the main heating source during the day, or in a preheat capacity, depending on the required temperature. SolarWall systems can be easily incorporated into tunnel, trough or conveyor dryers. The addition of the SolarWall component also lowers the humidity in the incoming air (because it is heated before entering the building or drying chamber) which means that the air has been preconditioned to absorb more moisture.
SolarWall heating also helps agricultural producers promote their products as being “solar-dried” with the Solar AiR logos. These are the first global consumer labels that identity companies and farming entities that have incorporated eco-friendly solar air heating in their operations. The Solar AiR Logos are intended to inform consumers about the use of solar air heating in the drying and processing of food products, thereby differentiating those solar-dried products from conventionally produced food items.
To dry the nuts, I’ve got 600,000 CFM of air to heat, so when things cool down here I use a lot of natural gas! I looked for ways to reduce my energy costs and found SolarWall. Now there are times when I don’t need to run natural gas at all because I’m getting enough heat from the SolarWall panels on the roof to shut off the burners. What I like about [SolarWall] is there’s no maintenance, no moving parts. Once you set it up it’s real simple.