Media Coverage

SMART GRID TODAY: Ice Energy Rapidly Developing Footprint in Smart Grid World

Technology makes ice when power is cheap to cool midday air

September 3, 2009 - Ice Energy is rapidly developing a footprint in the smart grid world with its unique distributed energy storage system, CEO Frank Ramirez told us in an interview yesterday. The seven year old firm is “seeing a tremendous increase in interest” in its technology. “Our business is really picking up now. We're receiving a heavy volume of requests for proposals from utilities.”

The key feature of the firm's storage system is its use of thermally efficient, off-peak power to produce and store energy for use the next day. The technology firm's “Ice Bear” is the industry's first energy storage solution specifically developed for small to mid-sized commercial buildings.

When paired with a standard rooftop air conditioning unit, the system uses only a small amount of the peak energy needed by conventional systems, sharply cutting power costs and greenhouse gas emissions, Ramirez explained.

The process Ice Energy uses to address the root cause of “peaking power load” is simple. “It costs both utilities and consumers a lot more to use electricity during the day or during peak times than it does at night when rates are cheaper,” Ramirez noted. “Our system is designed to take advantage of those efficiencies and pass savings on to utilities and their customers.”

Ice Energy accomplishes this by freezing and storing 450 gallons of water in an insulated tank at night then delivering the coolant during the peak of the next day. While triggering the air conditioner unit to shut off during peak hours, the system uses the stored energy to cool buildings, delivering energy system efficiency and grid reliability, he added.

The system is especially beneficial for utilities, he believes, as the cost to deliver power during peak times is often more than the amount that can be charged in rates to consumers -- meaning the utility can't recoup expenditures.

Nearly two dozen utilities have tried the Ice Bear system with over 3 million hours of successfully operation, he noted.

Most recently, Ice Energy added Redding Electric Utility to the growing list of firms using its smart grid-enabled storage system. The California-based municipal utility will use the Ice Bear storage system to permanently cut peak summer electrical demand.

Redding Electric chose Ice Energy's storage solution to slow the growth of peak demand and cut the utility's exposure to costly peak power.

Simply by changing how -- and more importantly when -- energy is used for air conditioning, the utility estimates that 1,000 Ice Bear units installed in its service territory would let it cut its peak power demand by up to 7 mw, more than offsetting its planned peak load growth (SGT, Aug-26).

And the Redding deal is just the tip of the iceberg, Ramirez said. We think he was smiling but we know he wasn't kidding.

© 2009 MMI Inc.