Workshop Drives Solutions for Natural Refrigerants

Over 70 commercial refrigeration stakeholders gathered on March 30th, 2017 at the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) headquarters in Sacramento, CA for an NASRC Natural Refrigeration Workshop.  They came to find answers. What is the right natural refrigerant technology to achieve both performance and return? How can contractors ensure adequate training for the new and current workforce? What incentives are available to reduce the burden of first costs? The answer, it turns out, isn’t a silver bullet, as the saying goes, but a “silver buckshot”.

Supermarket retailers that led the first wave of natural refrigerant technology adoption in the US, including Target, Whole Foods, Delhaize, Sprouts and Red Bull, shared their first-hand experiences with various systems and lessons learned.

“There’s a tough learning curve with the first few installations,” said Frank Davis from Sprouts Farmers Market. “Sharing our successes and failures is fundamental to improving the overall approach for the future.”

Retailers agreed no single solution will meet all needs, but sharing individual results will benefit the industry as a whole. In the end, the goal is to shoot for experience with a variety of solutions so that you are ready for whatever the future brings.

“Training and education for service technicians are not only a critical piece of the puzzle to advancing the adoption of natural refrigeration technologies,” said Clay Rohrer of Parker Sporlan. “They also have the potential to attract a wave of new workforce to the industry.”

A panel including Danfoss, Emerson and Source Refrigeration shared existing and planned educational opportunities. While training the existing workforce remains a key challenge, product manufacturers and contractors agreed they need to engage with the emerging workforce to attract talent into the industry.

Presentations also focused on available funding mechanisms such as carbon offsets and utility incentives available for energy savings from natural refrigerant use.

“Initial costs continue to be a primary barrier to widespread adoption,” said Aaron Daly from Whole Foods Market. “Utilities have an opportunity to play a critical role in fast-tracking the adoption of these technologies by offering incentives for their installation and use.”

While there may not be a “one-size-fits-all” solution, the workshop is sure to yield a variety of innovative approaches. “NASRC is able to bring the right stakeholders to the table to share critical information and make meaningful progress to breaking down the barriers to natural refrigerants.” said Todd Washburn of True Manufacturing.

Workshop participants included representatives from local and national supermarket retailers, refrigeration equipment manufacturers, contractors and service technicians, and California utilities including Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), Southern California Edison (SCE) and SMUD.

NASRC would like to thank the workshop sponsors SMUD, Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, True Manufacturing and Parker Sporlan. For more information on the event contact