Turning the Tide on Energy Efficiency: A Visit to Chicago's Shedd Aquarium

By Sarah Zaleski on Apr 09, 2015

This morning the Energy Department’s Under Secretary for Science and Energy, Lynn Orr, visited the John G. Shedd Aquarium, a Better Buildings Challenge showcase project for the City of Chicago.

If you’re ever lucky enough to visit the Shedd Aquarium, here’s one more thing to admire in addition to the striking architecture and more than 32,000 animals, including beluga whales, sea turtles, sharks and sting rays.

The Shedd Aquarium has made a commitment to be more energy-efficient with a goal of eventually becoming the nation’s first smart-powered aquarium and serving as an international model of innovation. In 2012, Shedd Aquarium set into action a multi-phased approach to reduce energy consumption by 50 percent by 2020.

Working together with the City of Chicago and the Better Buildings Challenge, they’ve already implemented a sophisticated energy management system that is both highly efficient and highly responsive to the building’s energy supply needs. The system and staff make sure that world-class care and a 24-hour life support system is maintained, hosting healthy animals and happy visitors. In demonstration of their commitment to reducing pollution from power plants, the aquarium powers its Great Lakes Exhibit from 913 solar panels on its roof, helping to protect the very ecosystem that it features.  Moreover, the project is anticipated to save the aquarium about $200,000 per year in energy costs. 

Chicago’s Climate Plan calls for 25% reduction in the city’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, and an 80 percent reduction by 2050. With more than 23,000 commercial and industrial buildings and more than one million residential units, energy efficiency is at the core of Chicago’s environmental and economic strategy.

To find out more about Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium project, go to https://www4.eere.energy.gov/challenge/showcase/chicago/john-g-shedd-aquarium.

You can read more about the City of Chicago’s success in energy efficiency on their Better Buildings Challenge partner page here