By David Kligman
MONTEREY — For more than 30 years, the Monterey Bay Aquarium has thrilled visitors who marvel at the wonders of the ocean — playful sea otters, colorful fish and even sharks.
The aquarium is considered among the world’s greatest, with 35,000 creatures and nearly 200 exhibits. In addition to its awe-inspiring sea life, its main message is that our very survival depends on healthy seas.
“Our whole goal is conservation of the world’s oceans,” said Stanton Ruese, the aquarium’s senior exhibit technician.
That conservation includes the many ways the aquarium saves energy.
And since its beginning in 1984, PG&E has helped the aquarium save thousands of dollars a year in energy costs.
“We like to try to think of each exhibit as kind of a work of art,” Ruese said. “So I’m really kind of lighting it as you would in a museum exhibit.”
And LED lights, which are cheaper, emit less heat and provide better light to illuminate the sea creatures, have made a world of difference.
That energy also includes the guts of the aquarium, just below the exhibits. It’s a highly technological labyrinth of pipes, pumps and motors. Because the aquarium is filled with living and breathing creatures, there’s always someone making sure everything is running as it should.
“Twenty-four hours, seven days a week, including Christmas morning, somebody’s here running the system,” said Eric Quamen, the aquarium’s facilities systems supervisor. “It’s a life support system and if we don’t keep the water moving and all the features on, bad things will happen to the collection.”
Energy efficiency is a priority at the aquarium, something PG&E appreciates.
“Sometimes I need to paint the picture of the importance of energy efficiency, but here I don’t have to. I’m preaching to the choir, so we’re working together to make a difference,” said PG&E customer relationship manager Kendra Weinisch.
PG&E helps businesses of all types and sizes save energy and money. For museums and aquariums like the one in Monterey, PG&E’s partnership has led to savings of 4 million kilowatt hours and more than 4,000 therms of gas since 2010. That’s enough energy saved to remove 552 cars from the road for one year.
The aquarium’s newest addition will be teaching conservation to schoolchildren on the site of a warehouse where sardines were once canned.
PG&E is partnering with the aquarium to make it the most energy efficient building possible. And it will take advantage of the Monterey sea breeze to naturally cool the building in the summer.
“To conserve the oceans, you have to have a mindset to conserve everything,” said Stephen Lyon, special projects manager for the aquarium.
And that conservation message is something the aquarium hopes its nearly 2 million visitors a year take to heart.
“When you get home, turn off your light switch when you leave the room,” said Dan Albro, senior trainer of guest experience for the aquarium. “Simple things like that can make a big difference when it comes to climate change and reducing our carbon footprint.”
Email David Kligman at David.Kligman@pge.com.