Grant puts Disney on ice

Glendale’s effort to cool demand for energy is taking hold, with the Walt Disney Co. as the latest customer to take advantage of a federally subsidized program to promote ice-based air conditioning to cut down on electricity.

The chillers, called Ice Bears, work by making ice in the evening hours, when demand for energy is low, then using the ice as the source of air conditioning during peak hours. Nineteen of the chillers are installed at City Hall, libraries and fire stations, according to city officials. Another 81 have been placed on commercial properties at no charge and with the consent of the owners.

Over the last year, the Ice Bears have shifted more than 700,000 watts of electricity demand away from peak-hour use, city officials reported. At a luncheon Tuesday, officials and leaders of the private company doing the work touted the program as one that will save ratepayers money and dampen the city’s need to generate electricity.

Joseph Desmond, executive vice-president of Pleasanton-based Ice Energy, which makes the machines, said Glendale commercial property owners are expected to install more than 100 of the units in the coming month, including 80 at the Walt Disney Co.’s Glendale campus.

The installations are funded by a $4.25-million grant from the Department of Energy administered by the Southern California Public Power Authority. The grant also covers conversion of dozens of old air conditioning and heating units at city facilities.

The city installs the Ice Bears at no cost to property owners, though the city retains ownership of the machines.

Tom Welch, a site acquisition manager for Ice Energy, said that property owners are at first skeptical of the government program. But once they find out it comes at no cost and reduces energy bills, the majority express an interest.

Desmond said the technology has not yet been applied for residential use because greater savings can be found on the commercial side and retrofitting existing homes is problematic from a logistical and cost-benefit standpoint.

Craig Kuennan, marketing manager for Glendale Water & Power, said the goal is to place roughly 1,500 of the Ice Bear units around the city and shift demand of 1.5 megawatts of power to off-peak periods.

The Department of Energy funds are expected to sustain the program through March 2013. After that, the city will partner with interested property owners to pay for ice bear installations, officials said.

For more information on the program, commercial property owners can call (818) 548-2746, or visit

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