Ice Energy: As Cool as Energy Storage Gets

by Alexander Flores

Ice Energy, a privately held company based in Santa Barbara, CA, has developed a cost-effective air conditioning utility known as the Ice Bear. Essentially, the Ice Bear’s primary function is to convert a power-guzzling air conditioner into a more efficient hybrid that consumes 95% less energy during the peak of the day. This supplementary energy storage unit is compatible with 85% of all commercial air conditioning units and simply stores energy at night when electricity generation is cleaner, more efficient, and less expensive, then delivers it during the day. The Ice Bear works in conjunction with refrigerant-based, 4-20 ton package rooftop systems common to most small or mid-sized commercial buildings. One could simply think of an Ice Bear unit as a battery for an air conditioning system. But just how does it work? An Ice Bear unit consists of a large thermal tank, which operates in an Ice Cooling mode and Ice Charging mode to make ice at night to use for cooling the following day. A typical cycle begins with 450 gallons of water being frozen by a self-contained charging system during the Ice Charge mode in the insulated tank. This occurs by the pumping of refrigerant through a configuration of copper coils within the unit. Once the ice is formed, the condensing unit turns off and cooling energy is stored until needed. As the daytime temperature rises during peak hours, noon to 6 pm, the Ice Bear unit switches to Ice Cooling mode, which utilizes the ice instead of the air conditioning unit’s compressor. This cools the hot refrigerant by slowly melting the ice as it travels through a series of copper coils. The ice-cold refrigerant is then pushed through a modified Ice Energy LiquidDX evaporator coil within the air conditioning unit by a small, highly efficient pump. This Ice Cooling cycle lasts for at least 6 hours and then the building’s air conditioning unit takes over at that point while the Ice Bear goes back into Ice Charge mode to start the cycle over again. An average reduction of 12 kilowatts of source equivalent peak demand is delivered by an Ice Bear unit, which shifts 72 kilowatt-hours of on-peak energy to off-peak hours. These units can also be configured to provide utilities with demand response on other nearby electrical loads, which can double or triple its peak-demand reduction capacity. Ideally, a shift to such a utility for commercial buildings’ air conditioning units would reduce electric system demand and costs, improve electric system load factor, and improve electric system efficiency and power quality. Who knew a little ice could save so much? It’s almost too cool to be true.


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