Energy Solutions from the Bottom of the Sea

AC Project to Reduce Hawaiian Dependence on Foreign Oil

Written by Brian Hicks
Posted May 12, 2010

The deep sea is a mysterious place that we as humans have only begun to explore. These dark depths play host to an otherworldly array of bizarre and wondrous creatures that would be right at home in the latest sci-fi flick....

Also lurking within those alien depths is a powerful force; one with the power to control the world's temperature...

Well, at this point it can only control an office building's temperature — but hey, an exciting development nonetheless!

The city of Honolulu is releasing a new, deep sea-fueled air conditioning system that can drop the temperature in a building without expending the high energy and waste of a traditional AC system.

It is a system that could save 77 million kilowatt hours annually, according to Anders Rydaker, president of Minnesota based Ever-Green Energy. They have contracted with Honolulu Seawater Air Conditioning to build underwater pipes that would draw the cold seawater from depths of up to 1,700 feet.

At those depths, the water is around 45°F — almost the precise temperature of most cooling systems. Conventional cooling systems, or chillers, are serious power hogs. deep sea AC

The chillers currently being used account for up to 70,000 pounds of chemicals annually, which the deep sea technology aims to eliminate. Ever-Green Energy also cut emissions by 84,000 tons, shaving around 20% off of energy costs for the buildings that opted to use it.

By 2012, the city hopes that half of its buildings will be cooled by the eco-friendly deep sea system.

But just how eco-friendly is it?

"If you look at the heat we emit in both the ocean and the atmosphere, it's 40% less than a conventional air-conditioning system, and of course, by cutting greenhouse gases, we slow global warming," claims Ingvar Larsson, VP of engineering for Honolulu Seawater
Air Conditioning.

Larsson also added that his company's process did not warm the ocean.

Systems like this have already been implemented in cold weather locales like Toronto, but Honolulu's is the first attempt to try it in a tropical climate, where air conditioning is more critical. (I dare you to brave a Hawaiian summer without it!)

If the Honolulu system saves as much energy as the companies are claiming, other tropical cities are likely to jump on board. As for Hawaii, after the current project is completed, the company has its eyes set on Waikiki, where up to 40% of the total power used is for air conditioning alone.

And almost all of that power is generated from foreign sources, helping to make their energy bills in Hawaii the highest in the United States.

"We'll save so much energy for the buildings," said Frederic Berg, project director for the Honolulu Seawater Air Conditioning.

"It's a real benefit when you don't have to go out and buy foreign oil and you get to keep the money in Hawaii."

In the coming years, perhaps cities like Miami and Acapulco will be saying the same thing.

Be Well,