There are millions of fish in the sea, as they say, but it turns out there might be a million dollar payback in those deep sea waters.
Alaska SeaLife Center, located in Seward, is an ocean wildlife rescue center and aquarium. Constructed in 1995 and the largest employer in Seward, the Center provides valuable ocean wildlife discoveries to scientists, teachers and the general public. It also serves as home to a host of sea wildlife that otherwise might be forever lost to us. The Center covers 120,000 square feet and requires a tremendous amount of energy to keep warm, especially in the very frigid Alaskan temperatures. In fact, as much as 500 gallons of heating oil is needed on a daily basis, to the tune of roughly $2,000 per day.
The Sealife Center called in the experts from YourCleanEnergy, a local alternative energy consulting and design company, to find options for bringing down their energy bill. It was determined to look no further than the neighbor next door—Resurrection Bay. It seemed like a preposterous idea, considering the fact that the waters of Resurrection Bay are frigid. How could one possibly turn frigid water into a heating source? With the assistance of a large federal grant, a team of engineers from the Center and YourCleanEnergy undertook to study and test this very possibility. The end result is the construction of the most northern seawater heat pump system in America.
The entire process, which cost more than $1 million to develop, design and implement, seems unbelievable and counter-intuitive. Through a very complex system of pipes, containers and engineering technology, sea water from Resurrection Bay is pumped in and its heat extracted, entering a holding bin that contains water-glycol. The water-glycol mixture is boiled by the heat taken from the freezing sea water to make liquid carbon dioxide, which is then used to heat regular water that is pumped into the building, thereafter heating the entire complex.
The process was made easier by the fact that the Center was already pumping in thousands of gallons of seawater into the facility.
By the end of this year, the Alaska Sealife Center hopes to completely shut down its oil-based heating apparatus, eliminating approximately 1.3 million pounds of carbon emission generated by the boilers every year.
YourCleanEnergy hopes to take the success of this project and expand it across the country, to be used even in such tasks as ice removal from roadways and sidewalks.