For this Cool Talk, we have had the opportunity to interview Jim VanderGiessen of PRORefrigeration. Jim has served as CEO at PRO for more than 20 years, after co-founding the company with his father in 1990. PRO is one of the leading suppliers of chiller system to the US Dairy and US Craft Brewery Markets. PRO's corporate HQ is located near Seattle, WA, with its 70,000 square feet production facility located on the east coast, near Winston Salem, NC.
Why joining the Green Cooling Initiative?
PRO developed and released our PROGreen Chiller System utilizing R744 in 2021, since then we have proven that a CO2 based chiller system better serve our customers than conventional systems utilizing a chemical based refrigerant.
How does your company contribute to making the RAC sector more climate-friendly?
By continuing to prove the value and benefits that systems utilizing natural refrigerants can deliver; primarily the ability to convert "waste heat" (created during the cooling process) and utilizing this heat as a primary water heating source. This saves our customers money, reducing (and sometimes eliminating completely) their fossil fuel sourced water heaters and boilers. We are committed because the future is clear, chemical refrigerants are going to continue to be phased out.
Where do you see the biggest obstacle for Green Cooling technologies at the moment?
CO2 based systems are more expensive and they require higher skilled technicians. Training and cost justification are the two biggest hurdles today.
What would an ideal cooling sector look like in the future?
It would be based on natural refrigerants!
For instance, for a large dairy customer (with 1,000 to 10,000 cows per farm), an ideal project would have a PROGreen R744 Chiller System operating 22 to 24 hours per day cooling a steady flow of warm of milk from the milking parlor.
The PROGreen Chiller System includes onboard heat recovery, so while we are cooling the constant flow of milk, we are also heating and filling hot water storage tanks on the farm. Daries will use 1,500 to 3,000 gallons of hot water daily to sanitize and clean the storage tanks, pipelines, and heat exchangers.
Another example could be that of a brewery. Here again our ideal solution would have a PROGreen R744 Chiller System operating 24 hours per day serving a "cellar" full brewery tanks with cooling jackets, serving cold rooms where the final product is stored, and cooling product to optimum temperatures during packaging to avoid loss to foaming. The brewery utilizes the onboard heat recovery to heat their water used to make a batch of beer and also use this waste heat to heat their facilities.
We are seeing that natural refrigerants based solutions are penetrating the North American market quickly - we hope the worldwide cooling sector will be predominantly based on natural working fluids in the future!
What makes you believe that we will master the transition to Green Cooling?
Europe is proving it, and although PRO has less than 10 R744 based systems operating in the field, we are proving that CO2 is a viable option that deserves a look.
Speaking of safety: what would you say to people who think natural refrigerants are too risky to handle?
The fear and apprehension is quickly erased, but it does require big efforts educating both customers and service companies.