Shedd Aquarium, Chicago's most popular cultural attraction, has
rolled out a plan that will launch it as the first clean
energy-powered facility of its kind in the country.
"It's a brand new initiative," said Elise Waugh, a communications
and public relations coordinator at Shedd. "It's going to be
something that other institutions can look to as a model for their
A Master Energy Roadmap aims to cut energy consumption of the
83-year-old indoor public aquarium in half by 2020. Robert Wengel,
the aquarium's vice president of facilities, said about 10 million
kilowatt-hours, enough to power 750 houses, are expected to be
"It's a comprehensive strategy," Wengel said. "We're going to go
from an energy saver, which is what we are now, to an energy leader
and to an energy innovator."
Shedd has begun the journey toward energy efficiency by changing
the exhibits' lighting systems. systen.
"We've done a lot of LED lighting retrofit," Wengel said. "And
that actually produced more light and a crisper light."
Wengel said the 600 light bulbs illuminating the four chandeliers
in the main foyer were replaced with LED bulbs. That move is
expected to save $7000 a year on energy costs.
The smart energy plans also include the installation of
electricity sub meters and automation systems to audit, control and
monitor energy use. An On-site solar power system will cut more
than $100,000 annually on electricity bills and provide power in
the event of a should a blackout occur. Wengel said the flow or
pressure of pumps in the giant-size tanks, built to replicate the
natural environment of the sea creatures, will be monitored by
variable-frequency drives (VFDs). Wild Reef, the largest tank,
holds 400,000 gallons of water.
The energy roadmap was designed in partnership with the City of
Chicago, the Citizens Utility Board, the Illinois Science and
Technology Coalition, and the Institute for Sustainable Energy
"This project is a real opportunity to not only reduce energy
consumption for Shedd, but its larger implication is a model site
for sustainable energy investments," said Mark Harris, the
president and CEO of ISTC. "It's really going to provide visibility
and a better understanding of the benefits of smart energy
practices. So, it's a phenomenal effort that will help not only the
Shedd, but other institutions."
Wengel said the full cost of implementing these changes over the
next seven years is not yet known.
"If you look at what we're going to spend this year on projects,
probably just over a million dollars, but as far as how we are
going to strategize the rest of those costs throughout, we're still
kind of trying to figure that out," Wengel said.
Chicago resident and homeowner, Gerald Farinas, said he has been
greatly inspired by Shedd's conservation efforts.
"Lowering the cost I pay out of my pocket has been the main
inspiration to switch to energy-conserving appliances, electronics,
and yes, even the coiled LED bulbs," Farinas said. "Shedd's saving
enough electricity to power 750 homes. That is an incredible
amount. That's a difference that shouldn't be ignored and should be
And that's just the kind of effect Shedd hopes to have on its
visitors who number up to 2 million a year. The facility attraction
was the most visited aquarium in the U.S. in 2005. With 32,500
animals and 1500 species, it has the most diverse aquatic
collection of any aquarium in the world.
"We want to be able to make what we do relatable to people in
their homes, so when they come here we want to talk about it and
tell stories so they can leave and do some of the stuff we're
doing, just on a smaller scale," Wengel said.
Mayor Emanuel also praised the sea-life haven at 1200 S. Lake
Shore Drive. The city has its own energy reduction goals and
"Shedd's Master Energy Roadmap is an incredible step toward
achieving our 2015 goal of improving citywide energy efficiency by
five percent," Emanuel said in a statement last month.
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