Kilowatts and Sea Turtles: NASA’s Thermal Energy Storage Project
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — NASA is currently working under an initiative to better utilize the energy that helps power the location’s facilities. This includes a large thermal energy storage tank that was recently installed.
In contrast to most home central air conditioning systems that use a refrigerant to cool air, large commercial buildings and office parks often use chilled water as a coolant to cool and dehumidify interior environments.
Kennedy Space Center‘s cooling system includes a large central chiller building that uses electricity to chill water that is then pumped to most of the buildings in the complex. The water returns to the chiller to be again cooled, a closed-loop process that constantly operates to provide a comfortable interior work area for employees.
As explained in a press briefing by KSC project manager Ismael Otero, the complex recently installed a large 2.8-million-gallon (10.6-million-liter) thermal energy storage tank outside the chiller building. This allows KSC to store water to be chilled during off-peak nighttime hours for use during the day when electricity costs are higher.
The 90-foot (27-meter) high tank has concrete walls that are up to 10 inches (25 centimeters) thick and is coated with a tough external foam membrane to minimize the warming effects of the hot Florida sun.
“The Thermal Energy Storage Tank Project, one of many at KSC aimed at improving energy and environmental efficiency, saves about a quarter of a million dollars annually in energy costs,” Otero said.
Furthermore, the project also earned a $1.5 million rebate from Florida Power & Light. That rebate, in turn, is funding other energy saving projects funds within the KSC complex. Most notably, according to Dan Clark of the NASA Sustainability Team, is an initiative to replace over a hundred external lights with amber LED lights, which has a wavelength invisible to sea turtles.
“Young sea turtles become disoriented by conventional nighttime lighting,” Clark said.
The new LED lights will contribute to maintaining an eco-friendly environment for these and other creatures that share KSC with NASA.
Jim Siegel comes from a business and engineering background, as well as a journalistic one. He has a degree in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University, an MBA from the University of Michigan, and executive certificates from Northwestern University and Duke University. Jim got interested in journalism in 2002. As a resident of Celebration, FL, Disney’s planned community outside Orlando, he has written and performed photography extensively for the Celebration Independent and the Celebration News. He has also written for the Detroit News, the Indianapolis Star, and the Northwest Indiana Times (where he started his newspaper career at age 11 as a paperboy). Jim is well known around Celebration for his photography, and he recently published a book of his favorite Celebration scenes. Jim has covered the Kennedy Space Center since 2006. His experience has brought a unique perspective to his coverage of first, the space shuttle Program, and now the post-shuttle era, as US space exploration accelerates its dependence on commercial companies. He specializes in converting the often highly technical aspects of the space program into contexts that can be understood and appreciated by average Americans.