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Polar Bears Use New Heating System to Warm Elephants At The Oregon Zoo

Wednesday, September 03, 2014


Polar bear swims and heats elephants at the Oregon Zoo

Polar bears at the Oregon Zoo will be cooling down and keeping the Asian elephants warm at the same time, thanks to the introduction of a new geothermal heating system. 

The new system will cool the water that polar bears swim in, and send the excess heat generated in the process to the zoo’s remodeled Elephant Lands habitat, saving energy and money. 

“Essentially, this system works the same way as your household refrigerator,” said zoo construction manager Jim Mitchell.  “The condenser that cools the coils in your refrigerator produces heat, which is expelled away from the coils with a fan. Our system has just added another step: capturing that heat for use elsewhere rather than blowing it all away.”

Rather than letting the hot heat simply blow away, the Oregon Zoo will implement a tool called the “Slinky”, a type of geothermal loop.

When excess heat is created in the cooling process, the geothermal loop will direct heat underground through the Slinky-like coiled pipes into the Asian elephants habitat.

The energy-efficient system is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent, while cutting Elephant Lands’ energy requirements by 50 percent.

The heat byproduct will serve as the main source of heat for what will be one of the largest indoor elephant facilities in the nation.

Elephant Lands is the fourth project in an eight-part redevelopment of the zoo, funded by a 2008 bond measure. With the additional funding, the elephants’ habitat will quadruple in size, enhancing the daily life experience of the elephants.

The zoo opens at 9 a.m. daily and is located just off Highway 26, minutes from downtown Portland. 

General admission is $11.50 (ages 12-64), $10 for seniors (65 and up), $8.50 for children (ages 3-11) and free for those 2 and younger. 

Additional information is available at www.oregonzoo.org or by calling 503-226-1561.

See Video: Time-Lapse Video Shows Installation of Underground “Slinky” 



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