The Polar Bear, developed at Ice Energy's IdeaLAB in Riverside, is designed to reduce energy costs in supermarkets and other commercial refrigeration systems. Like the company's flagship Ice Bear product, the Polar Bear makes ice during off-peak hours for use in cooling during periods of peak energy demand.
"Wilson Creek Winery [was] an early adopter of Ice Bears to cut their utility bill, and a first adopter of Polar Bears to help them cool their wine-making fermentation process," said Ice Energy CEO Mike Hopkins. "During the peak hours of the day, the Polar Bears come online and automatically augment the amount of cooling that is provided by the chiller or allow the chiller to either remain on standby/run at part-load, vastly increasing the operating efficiency of the plant."
Hopkins estimated the cost of installing the system in a typical 40,000-square-foot supermarket in Southern California at $40,000, "which would pay for two Polar Bears, fully installed."
Two competitors in the cold storage market, Axiom Exergy of Richmond, Calif., and Viking Cold Solutions of Houston, say their saltwater- and salt-hydrate-based thermal storage systems can reduce a customer's energy costs by up to 40 percent. How does the Polar Bear compare?
"The Polar Bear is uniquely cost effective in reducing peak demand," Hopkins said. "Based on currently utility rates, the Polar Bear has a payback of less than one year in California and about two years in New Jersey, Hawaii and Connecticut. I am not aware of any energy storage including Axiom or Viking Cold that has paybacks close to ours."
Commercial rollout of the Polar Bear is planned for the fourth quarter of this year. IdeaLAB, meanwhile, is working on a larger-capacity Ice Bear, and the company is developing expansion plans.
"We will be entering markets outside the U.S. through distribution partners this year," Hopkins said. "We are planning to raise capital this summer to support our growth plans."