Energy Management

How the National Aquarium is Championing Energy Management

3 min read

As an organization committed to caring for thousands of creatures, the National Aquarium in Baltimore understands the importance of conservation. Nearly everything from the silverware in its cafes to its harbor footbridge—made with nearly 100,000 plastic milk jugs—is reusable or made with recycled materials.

So, when Constellation and the National Aquarium announced a new, 25-year competitive electricity supply agreement that will help the Aquarium better manage energy costs and encourage the development of renewable power in Maryland, we decided to take a deeper ‘dive’ into the energy strategies that are powering the nation’s award-winning aquatic exhibits.

Here is a sneak-peek into the inventive ways that the National Aquarium and Constellation are utilizing energy strategies to promote efficiency, conservation and comprehensive energy management in their state-of-the-art facilities:

The Benefits of LED Lighting

The Aquarium currently houses more than 24,000 fish, reptiles and mammals, which results in uniquely sensitive display lighting requirements and restrictions. When the staff began developing the award-winning Blacktip Reef exhibit, they made it a priority to make the project as energy efficient as possible.

Working with Constellation, the Aquarium began this project with a comprehensive energy audit of the Aquarium’s facilities. After this was completed, a number of potential savings opportunities were identified, which are expected to result in more than $235,000 in energy cost savings a year.

After the energy audit was completed, it became clear that LED lighting replacements and updating installations throughout the entire facility would be the best way to achieve and exceed energy efficiency goals. But this was a bit of a tricky task, as many of the Aquarium’s residents needed to remain undisturbed during the upgrade process.

“We had to be very sensitive to animals’ sleeping patterns, for instance; not doing major change-outs that could cause vibration changes while a dolphin was sleeping,” said Cherise Seals, Constellation’s Business Development Manager for the project.

LED lighting is notable for its efficient light generation, long lifespan, superior optic control, and lack of wasted UV or infrared emission. In fact, LED usage is on-track to reach 70 percent of the lighting market by 2020, thus making it a viable option for businesses looking to update and replace their current lighting systems.₁

The Aquarium and its lender, Maryland Clean Energy Center, financed this project through a 15-year energy performance contract with Constellation. The contract requires no upfront capital, and the annual cost savings are guaranteed.

In the end, these upgrades are expected to reduce carbon emissions by the Aquarium by 12,300 metric tons each year. That’s equal to taking nearly 2,600 cars off the road!

The installation process is slated to finish early next year.

Harnessing the Sun

Another important aspect of this project involves the incorporation of solar energy to supply approximately 40 percent of the Aquarium’s total electricity load.

As part of the agreement, Constellation will fund, construct and operate a 4.3-megawatt (DC) grid-connected solar generation project in Cambridge, Md., developed with OneEnergy Renewables.

Scheduled for completion in March 2015, the system is designed to generate an estimated 5.8 million kilowatt hours during its first year of operation. The Aquarium will receive solar renewable energy credits from the solar power system for a portion of the term of its electricity supply agreement.

This allows the Aquarium to use the guaranteed savings to fund the project in addition to utility rebates for energy efficiency upgrades. Constellation will manage the supply for the Aquarium, provide a steady supply of energy and offer more certainty for its budget.

A Flexible Index Program

In addition, the long-term power agreement enables the Aquarium to receive a fixed price for electricity supply equal to the amount of power generated by the solar facility while retaining the ability to purchase the remainder of its electricity supply at market rate under Constellation’s flexible index program.

The flexible index program offers the potential rewards of both budget stability and purchasing flexibility by allowing the Aquarium to fix varying load—following percentages of electricity usage up to 100 percent. All remaining electricity is purchased on Day Ahead or Real Time indices, depending on the wholesale market.

By not locking in 100 percent of the electricity usage all at once, the Aquarium can actively and effectively manage its energy costs based on market-driven opportunities.

“Constellation is pleased to continue to support the National Aquarium’s energy and environmental goals,” said Mark Huston, president of Constellation Retail. “Our power purchase agreement with the Aquarium demonstrates our commitment to developing products and services that give customers greater flexibility in managing their energy costs while supporting the use of clean, renewable energy.”

To learn more about how your business can take advantage of energy upgrades or renewable energy with little or no upfront costs, contact us today.
₁ ‘LEDs Today and Tomorrow: State Reliability and Applications,’ GE (General Electric) dated November 2013

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