Ice Energy cools demand of T.O.

One of the ways to save polar bears from a melting climate, according to the Toronto Zoo, is for the city to become a chillier place.

Introducing Ice Energy to the city, the zoo is showcasing a new system that replaces air conditioners with stored ice blocks. Using ice to reduce peak demands and stave off the effects of a changing climate in the Arctic. If the zoo has its way, this could be the way of the future for Toronto.

“What we’re showcasing is a unit that if deployed in mass on every large building and every mall, then there’s going to big electricity savings,” said Dave Ireland, the zoo’s curator of conservation programs.

Currently, electricity consumption represents 26 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions in the City of Toronto. According to the zoo, Ice Energy has the capacity to reduce some of the city’s demands, cutting 95 per cent of peak energy use for a facility’s cooling system.

In seeking alternative for the city, Toronto Hydro has purchased 12 Ice Energy units this past summer, including three now operating at the Toronto Zoo. If the units prove successful, by 2012 more of these units could be rolled out across the GTA.

But unlike renewable energy, such as wind turbines or solar panels, Ice Energy does not create alternative electricity. Instead the system works to reduce peak demands of energy sources that are already in use.

“If we don’t want blackouts or brownouts any longer – we need to also work on technology that reduces peak demand,” Ireland said.

The only operating units are being used at the zoo’s Caribou Café, which saves an estimated $700 each cooling season, the equivalent to the electricity demands of 11 homes.

The zoo says the goal of the pilot project isn’t about reducing its own demands significantly, but to be used for educational purposes.

“If we can generate some awareness and accessibility of this new technology to the public and private sector, then it will be easier down the road for policy makers to make the change,” Ireland said.