Efficient and economical lighting
Lighting accounts for much of the Biodôme’s electricity use. In addition, different types of lighting are required for the office areas and the four ecosystems.
In office areas
Here fluorescent tubes were the rule. As they reached the end of their useful lives, they were replaced by more energy efficient tubes.
In the ecosystems
Huge Light bulbs are used to light the different ecosystems. Each ecosystem (Gulf of St. Lawrence, Laurentian Maple Forest, Tropical Rainforest, Labrador Coast and Sub-antartic Islands) requires a special type of lighting, because it is important to simulate the natural light in each environment as faithfully as possible for the plants and animals living there.
- Replacing outmoded equipment with more efficient technology has allowed the Biodôme to reduce its electricity use by close to 40%, with no effect whatsoever on lighting quality.
- Another benefit is that the electric hum from the old lighting system is almost imperceptible since September 2009.
Heat recovery and geothermal energy
One of the main energy challenges at the Biodôme is that its different climates are all together under one roof. Each ecosystem’s climate must be maintained at all times, throughout the year, regardless of the season.
- the Polar World requires air conditioning both winter and summer;
- the Tropical Forest has to be heated even in summer.
These varied and very distinct requirements mean that climate conditions must be precisely controlled to meet the vital needs of the plants and animals in each ecosystem.
Coming full circle: heat recovery
The energy-saving program identified the most inexpensive way of meeting all these demands: heat recovery. How does it work? Heat is taken from areas that require cooling and transferred to areas or ecosystems that need heating. This redistribution of available energy is an excellent way of optimizing resources. It also translates into major cost savings, since there is no longer any need to pay twice to cool certain areas and heat others at the same time.
Advanced equipment: a heat pump
To recover energy in this way, it takes a heat pump, which makes it possible to simultaneously chill a cold-water system for cooling and warm a hot-water system for heating.
How does a heat pump work? Think of the refrigerator in your kitchen. Thanks to a coolant that circulates through the piping, heat is extracted from the food inside and it is cooled. That heat is then evacuated outside the appliance. Put your hand behind your fridge and you’ll see that it is warming up your kitchen, summer and winter!
Depending on the season and the outdoor temperature, it may be possible to meet all the heating needs of the different ecosystems with energy recovered from the cooled zones. At some points during the year, some additional heating will be necessary. The Biodôme can then rely on a geothermal heating system to meet these needs.
The water table, a heat source
The water table lies some twenty metres below the Biodôme. The water there remains at a stable temperature of about 12ºC all year long. A heat pump can draw on this heat source when the building’s energy recovery system isn’t up to the job. Only the energy in this underground water will be used, and all the water pumped from the water table will be returned there.
Ventilation and water filtration
New technology for optimizing motors.
Ventilation and water filtration: essential systems
At the Biodôme, air quality is a very important factor in maintaining each of the ecosystems.
- Many electrical motors are required to maintain healthy conditions in all the ecosystems and work areas. They distribute clean air through the building’s different ventilation systems.
- Other motors are used to pump water through the many basins in the different ecosystems.
All these motors run full out all day long, consuming enormous amounts of electricity.
VSDs to the rescue
A new technology known as a VSD (variable speed drive) makes it possible to adjust the fan and pump motors to the specific needs of each ecosystem throughout the day, resulting in substantial energy savings.
- The amount of fresh air needed inside the building depends directly on the number of people there at the time and the temperature level to be maintained. With VSDs, the electric motors can easily be adjusted to meet demand. They no longer need to be run at full speed all the time!
- In addition, the pumps used to circulate water in the ecosystem basis don’t all do the same amount of work – it all depends on the filtration. By varying the power of the filtration pumps, the Biodôme can save valuable kilowatt-hours. Remember that these pumps work around the clock every day, to ensure proper water quality for the marine plants and animals.