Shedding Energy Costs

Chicago’s famed aquarium installs lithium-ion battery

Managing energy is a point of contention on many scales.

It’s a nationwide issue (see: Clean Power Plan), a statewide concern, of highest priority on the city level, and perhaps most acutely monitored by companies and buildings who want to be as efficient, green, and frugal as possible.

At the world-famous John G. Shedd Aquarium on Chicago’s Museum Campus, the concern is no different. Sustainable practices are now a department of the institution and a facet of operations. So how do you maximize efficiency with an annual energy output that runs you about $1.1 million? The solution is innovative…and costs about double that.

Battery installation on 5.27.16—Shedd Aquarium photo

Battery installation on 5.27.16—Shedd Aquarium photo

The Shedd recently installed (on May 26) a 60,000-pound, 1-megawatt lithium-ion battery on its loading dock, fully equipped with a transformer and operating skid. The $2 million battery has dimensions of 20x10x10 feet, and was built in a shipping container before being installed by Schneider Electric, whose U.S. headquarters are in nearby Des Plaines. It figures to be a major contributor to the goals of Shedd’s Master Energy Roadmap, created in 2012 to cut the aquarium’s energy usage in half by 2020.

Before the plan, the aquarium was using more than 20 million kilowatts of power a year, Bob Wengel, vice president of facilities at Shedd, told Lisa Bertagnoli of Crain’s Chicago.  By the end of this year, usage is expected to drop to 17 million kilowatts.

Shedd used a $500,000 grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to pay for the battery. The battery’s maker, Eagle-Pitcher of Joplin, Mo., covered the remaining $1.5 million. Eagle-Pitcher owns and operates the battery; Shedd is using it per a 10-year hosting agreement, Wengel said in a press release June 7.

The battery is connected to Shedd’s electrical distribution system and will help with peak load demand and backup power in case of an emergency. Shedd says it is the largest building battery in the state of Illinois and the first battery of its kind to be installed at a zoo or aquarium in the United States.

The Master Energy Plan includes 913 photovoltaic solar panels atop Shedd’s Oceanarium; 1,000 light fixtures equipped with LED bulbs; and an analytics system that helps Shedd’s building managers make corrections to optimize energy usage.

While we’ve got you in an aquatic state—check out this week’s Video of the Week in our Direct & Current newsletter about another innovation happening at a Scottsdale aquarium project.


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