The photo is sourced from thebarentsobserver.com
Damage to the buildings situated on the soil losing its firmness is one of the consequences of permafrost thaw. Hence, the change in Alpine soil morphology resulted in deformation of the foundation of Rifugio Casati – a four-storied building used by mountain-climbers as a recreation stop. To address this problem, scientists developed coolers operating on solar batteries, which use solar energy to freeze the soil and cool the premises. The cooling process consists of several stages: solar batteries generate energy feeding it to the heat pump, which pumps water and cools the freon gas (the cooling agent in the refrigerator) thus taking the heat from the soil. If the weather is sunny, the excessive energy is accumulated in the batteries for further use in cloudy weather.
However, the high cost of batteries encumbers the mass adoption of coolers. The way out may be using heat pumps working with different frequency depending on the amount of energy generated by solar batteries. This is called adaptive load: on a sunny day the pump operates at full capacity, while as on an overcast day, when smaller amounts of energy are generated – at lower capacity. However, until recently it remained unclear, which plants are better fit for operating in northern territories: those with the batteries or with the pumps operating at different frequency.
Scientists from N.E. Bauman Moscow State Technical University and from M.V. Lomonosov Northern (Arctic) Federal University estimated the difference in the cost of using two types of power plants based in the meteorological data collected in Northern Norway (one hour time-resolved) juxtaposing the weather conditions with the plants’ performance. The calculations showed that the adaptive devices reduced the cost of cooling by 44% maintaining the quality of soil freezing. At the same time, when one high-capacity heat pump was replaced with several lower capacity pumps, the cooling system had to operate 30–35% longer: it was working in a broader range of luminosity, which improved the quality of soil freezing.
“Going forward, we intend to build a plant for stabilising coastal cliffs and to develop the technology of building on light foundations for the Arctic Region. We minimised the soil layer, which thaws out during the warm season, hence, the possibility to reject building on piles appeared meaning faster and cheaper construction process in the permafrost areas”, the Russian Science Foundation cites the words of Egor Loktionov, the Candidate of Technical Sciences and the Project Director.
Permafrost thawing processes affect the housing infrastructure, Kirill Bychkov, the First Deputy Chair of the Yakutia Republic Government emphasised at the session “Preserve the planet. The role of the Far East” on 11 September 2023 within the Eastern Economic Forum. Monitoring these processes according to Bychkov should be a priority for the Yakutia Government in the sphere of environmental management together with developing targeted programmes for the Lena River and preservation of biodiversity in the region.