Aquarium lifts heat from ocean’s stored energy
December 19, 2012
By Dan Joling | Associated Press: Resurrection Bay teems with salmon, herring and humpback whales, but when Alaska SeaLife Center chief executive officer Tara Riemer Jones looks at the fiord outside her window, she sees a way to cut her building’s heating bill.
The center this month turned off boilers that burn expensive fuel oil in favor of America’s farthest north seawater heat pump system, which taps a summer’s worth of solar energy stored in the deep bay.
The system sucks in seawater, extracts a few degrees of its warmth and returns it to the ocean. The upfront costs of the system were significant – about $830,000. But the SeaLife Center expects the system to pay for itself in less than nine years, saving at least $15,000 and possibly double that each winter month, with the added benefit of keeping 1.3 million pounds of carbon emissions out of the atmosphere each year.
“It working just as it was designed and we’re getting huge savings out of it,” Jones said.
About 160,000 visitors pass through the SeaLife Center each year to see underwater views of sea lions and harbor seals plus rare seabirds and fish from all depths. The center employs 90 people year-round and hosts volunteers and interns who help with its other missions, research and ocean wildlife rescue.