Ice instead of power lines: A cool idea

There’s more than one way to skin a cat, and there’s more than one way to store energy.

Boothbay Harbor is a summer resort town on a peninsula in Maine, served by a single high-voltage line that, in peak season, struggles to keep up with tourist demand. Replacing that line would be costly, so Central Maine Power is thinking outside the box. Or, perhaps, thinking in a different box.

It’s ice, ice baby.

In a state-approved demonstration project, CMP is providing Boothbay customers with Ice Bears:  high-tech boxes that use blocks of ice to chill water and keep tourists cool. Thirty-two units have been installed.

The Ice Bear stores cooling energy in the form of 450-gallon blocks of ice. At night, when demand is low (and sometimes rates, too), the Ice Bear makes ice. As afternoon temperatures rise it switches to cooling mode. The ice melts, keeping travelers cucumber cool.

It’s exactly that kind of “new box” thinking that Michigan – and the U.S. for that matter – needs in order to develop a new energy paradigm that is cost effective, leans on efficiency, and provides diversity as a hedge against rising commodity costs and alternatives to transmission build-out.

Persistent ice flows on Lake Superior kept beachgoers comfy over Memorial Day weekend. Maybe those chilly waters could be put to good use this summer and reduced the load on the UP’s shaky power infrastructure.

Now that’s a cool idea.

Read more at the Portland Press Herald.