Aquarium of the Pacific

Fast Facts

Industry: Education
Location: Long Beach, CA
Program: EnerNOC Demand Response in SCE
DR Strategy: Curtailment only
Primary Curtailment Strategy: Temporary adjustments to pumps, air recirculation fans, and lights
Annual Payments: Approximately $5,000
Annual Energy Reductions: 5% over the past 6 years

The Big Picture

The Aquarium of the Pacific’s mission is to foster a sense of wonder, respect, and stewardship for the Pacific Ocean, its inhabitants, and its ecosystems. It is California’s second largest aquarium and the fourth largest in the United States. With more than 1.5 million annual visitors (including 200,000 school children), it’s also the third largest cultural attraction in the Long Beach area.

In 2007, the Aquarium of the Pacific enrolled in demand response (DR) with EnerNOC. This innovative program responds to critical energy demand periods called by Southern California Edison, the Aquarium of the Pacific’s local energy provider. The program meets two primary concerns of aquarium management—ensuring the safety of its sea creatures and the comfort of its many visitors. During DR dispatches, the aquarium reduces energy use by temporarily turning off pumps, air recirculation fans, and lights.

These adjustments result in energy reductions of 200 kilowatts (kW), and earn the aquarium more than $5,000 a year in payments from EnerNOC. Participating in EnerNOC DR also helps the aquarium protect its facility and the surrounding community from energy grid issues, such as brownouts and blackouts.

Maintaining control while reducing energy use

Aquariums are carefully controlled environments. Throughout its 160,000-square-foot facility, the Aquarium of the Pacific carefully controls heat, humidity, light, and other variables to keep its wide range of sea creatures healthy. “I’d say that more than forty percent of our electricity use goes toward life support for our fish and other animals,” says John Rouse, Vice President of Operations. “We have to provide an environment that helps them thrive, and that keeps our visitors comfortable as well.”

To that end, the aquarium has installed a Siemens Building Technology Apogee InSight building management system, which controls and automates key operations, keeping the facility safe and more efficient. The aquarium leveraged new capabilities from this investment when it enrolled in EnerNOC’s DR program in 2007.

Implementing demand response required careful integration with the aquarium’s existing building management system, a task that drew upon the expertise and experience of EnerNOC technicians. “EnerNOC studied our facility carefully and we found that some simple adjustments could let us shed 200 kilowatts,” says Rouse. “They integrated demand response seamlessly with our existing equipment. And they did all the work, which made signing up a very simple process.”

Changes include adjustments to pumps, air recirculation fans, and lights in specific areas. For the aquarium, these changes are easily implemented at the touch of a button, and have minimal impact. “These adjustments have no real effect on our business, the visitor experience, or the health of our sea creatures,” says Rouse. “For example, we have situations where we’re running four pumps when we could just be running two, at least temporarily, without any effect. This change is invisible, but saves a significant amount of electricity.”

As part of implementing DR, the aquarium also received EnerNOC's energy intelligence software (EIS), which lets Rouse and his team monitor energy use during DR dispatches and beyond.

The Results

“Thanks to EnerNOC’s hard work, expertise, and advice, we had no problem achieving our 200 kilowatt target reduction during our first DR dispatch,” says Rouse. “In fact, during one dispatch in 2007, we managed to reduce by 500 kilowatts.” This level of reduction earns the aquarium approximately $5,000 a year, funds that help further its mission.

But the aquarium also gained more than funds. It learned more about its use of electricity, information that it uses to reduce its electrical expenses. “Going through the DR process made us more aware of how we use electricity, not only during DR dispatches, but also during day-to-day operations,” says Rouse. “Now we’re more aware of our electricity use and what we can do to reduce it."

"With EnerNOC, we can log in and see exactly where we’re using the most electricity, and make adjustments, particularly during peak periods. In the past, all we had was our monthly bill.”

During the last six years, the aquarium has grown by thirty percent, but decreased its electricity use by five percent. “We’re expanding, and our attendance is increasing,” says Rouse. “But we’re able to keep reducing energy use because we have more visibility into where it’s being used, plus more control.”

The Benefits

The main benefit that EnerNOC brings to the Aquarium of the Pacific is that it fits seamlessly into the aquarium—preserving the all-important visitor experience and ensuring the safety of the sea life showcased within the facility.

In fact, DR remains largely invisible to the facility’s 250 staff, 800 volunteers, and thousands of visitors. “We alert key groups via radio during DR dispatches, but dispatches just happen without a lot of attention,” says Rouse. Other benefits that EnerNOC brings to the Aquarium of the Pacific include:

Simple Response

By integrating with the facility’s building management system, EnerNOC enables the aquarium to respond to DR dispatches quickly. And should an area need to be adjusted during a dispatch, the aquarium can make any necessary changes, quickly and easily. “We really appreciate the simplicity and ease of the whole EnerNOC DR process, from enrolling to implementing to taking action during a dispatch,” says Rouse. “EnerNOC really makes it easy to be a part of demand response.”

More Visibility into Energy Consumption

Through EnerNOC EIS, the aquarium receives an ongoing source of real-time data about its energy use. Now Rouse and his team can see how the facility’s energy use changes dynamically based on changing conditions, such as the weather. And the combination of EIS and the aquarium’s building management system enable it to make quick changes that reduce energy use and expenses, particularly during peak periods.

Part of a Larger Commitment

EnerNOC EIS is just part of the Aquarium of the Pacific’s commitment to reducing its environmental impact. For example, it’s the first aquarium certified by the California Climate Action Registry, a private non-profit organization that serves as a voluntary greenhouse gas registry, aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Other energy projects include lighting adjustments, skylights, and other efforts help to keep the facility as efficient as possible.

Support for its Community

As a community-based non-profit organization, the Aquarium of the Pacific is thoroughly integrated into its surrounding community. “We feel like we’re helping our community and our state by partnering with EnerNOC,” says Rouse. “We want to be a resource during unplanned dispatches that put the grid at risk.”

The Future

The Aquarium of the Pacific is committed to serving as a model for similar high-use facilities in other areas of the country, showing how to use energy more intelligently, while providing an outstanding visitor experience.