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How Air Conditioning Can Save Polar Bears

Most people love bears even if we would not want to get too close up and personal with them. Many zoos around the world need to use air conditioning to keep animals from different climates cool and recognise that this use of air con may impact on the natural environments for many species especially polar bears that are beginning to find that there is less sea ice, which is their natural habitat.

Wanting to reduce energy usage and help conserve the bears at the same time, Toronto zoo is piloting their latest green technology the Ice Bear. The Ice Bear storage technology is located outside the Caribou CafĂ© at the zoo. The unit stores energy at night, when demand on the grid is low and then uses this energy during the day in the building’s air conditioning system.

Around the world, the peak demand for energy usage occurs during the day, when everybody is awake, using lots of energy for lights, computers, and other electrical items. Peaks in electrical usage frequently occur especially when a popular sporting event is shown on television and ovens are busily cooking pizzas!

In Toronto like other major cities worldwide, hot summer days use the majority of electricity. Up to 50 per cent, of the daytime peak demand, is used for air conditioning. If peak demand for energy keeps rising, more power stations will need to be built to keep up.

The Ice Bear unit uses off-peak electricity, in the middle of the night, to make a big block of ice. The ice slowly melts throughout the next day and is used to cool the air. The inventors believe if this type of technology is used in cooling systems around big cities, daytime peak demand will be lower, and the need to build more power stations, to cope with peak demand, will be reduced.

More power stations mean more greenhouse gases being emitted into the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases increase the global warming effect, this results in less sea ice for polar bears. By reducing peak demand this type of technology can reduce green house gas emissions and preserve the habitat for polar bears.

Toronto zoo is just one global non-profit organisation experimenting with green technologies. They also have a geothermal exhibit for the lion-tailed macaques. This exhibit uses the earth’s energy to heat and cool itself throughout the year.
Visitors can enjoy hands on experience with this innovative technology and feel the mulch temperature just outside of the exhibit.

Geothermal systems have least environmental impact of any space heating technology today and the Toronto Zoo aims to educate visitors on how human energy consumption affects endangered wildlife such as the Lion-tailed macaques.

Posted in: Latest News - On: 4th of September, 2012