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Environment, Energy and Transportation

Can The Pacific Ocean Heat Our Buildings?

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Courtesy: Andy Baker
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Andy Baker in front of the Ocean Water, CO2 Compression Unit at the SeaLife Center in Seward, Alaska.

Our coastal waters may not seem all that warm, but the Pacific Ocean actually stores a lot of solar energy.  Could it be possible to use the ocean to heat buildings along the Pacific Northwest Coast? 

The technology works like this:  ocean water can be run through heat exchangers and come in contact with refrigerants that boil below zero.  Then CO2 compressors raise the temperature of the resulting vapor above 180-degrees-fahrenheit  to heat the building.

Independent energy consultant Andy Baker installed such a system at the Sea Life Center in Seward Alaska. At a presentation at Humboldt State University, Baker says there are 3 major benefits.

“Number one, is we can harness the power of the ocean," he says. "That’s stored solar energy all the way from the equator delivered for free. Number two, reduced costs. We can usually cut the cost of heating in half. Third, is you eliminate the liabilities of pollution."

Even though some electricity is needed to run the compressors, Baker says the Sea Life Center has been able to cut carbon emissions by 75-percent. Similar systems are being used in Canada and Scandinavia. About 40-percent of all global energy is used by buildings - most of that for heating. 

Copyright 2016 Jefferson Public Radio