Shedd Aquarium Installs Mega Battery

Water and electricity don’t mix, right? Well, sometimes they do. As part of its ongoing Master Energy Roadmap, the Shedd Aquarium just installed a one-megawatt battery—the largest such battery installation in Illinois and the first of its kind to be installed at a zoo or aquarium in the nation.

Funded by a grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity and installed by Schneider Electric, the battery will help the aquarium to become the nation’s first cultural institution powered by clean energy. (Previously: Sustainability at the Shedd, Winter 2015.)

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“Of the clean-energy technologies we’ve installed here at the aquarium, the installation of the one-megawatt battery is the largest project Shedd has undertaken to advance our clean-energy technologies,” said Bob Wengel, Vice President of Facilities at Shedd Aquarium. “It is an example of our dedication to reducing our environmental footprint and leading the way through innovation and continuous improvement to preserve earth’s natural resources for future generations.”

The 30-ton, $2 million battery system—which is comprised of smaller batteries in series, a transformer and inverter skid—is connected to Shedd’s electrical distribution system. Its purpose is to provide frequency regulation services, an energy reservoir during peak-load demand and back-up power during emergencies. The system is located on the loading dock, viewable to passers-by and aquarium visitors from inside the South Abbott Oceanarium window.

“As conservationists, we look for every opportunity to educate the people of Chicago and beyond about the sustainable actions they can take at home that collectively make a big difference,” said Wengel. “As technologies advance and present themselves in your everyday home, we look forward to seeing Illinois make large leaps toward reduced carbon emissions and dependency on non-renewable energy sources.”

The new battery isn’t the end of the line for sustainability at the Shedd. The 87-year-old aquarium hopes to install more energy efficient technologies around the building, including more LED lighting, lighting controls and an extension to its solar panel array. These technologies would be in addition to the 2013 installment of 913 photovoltaic solar panels that sit atop Shedd’s Abbott Oceanarium, the 1,000 light fixtures now equipped with LED lighting and the extensive Building Analytics system that tells Shedd how systems are performing to help make corrections for maximized efficiency.

Photos: ©Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez

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