Making a home for the bears in the Sea World complex, Australia
The thousands of visitors who have passed through Queensland's Sea World complex since last December have been captivated by the new polar bear enclosure, Polar Bear Shores, and its wonderful natural effects. And Schneider Electric equipment is used exclusively to control these effects.
As well as its value as an educational exhibit, the enclosure has a deeper purpose. Polar bears are listed as an endangered species and their survival is currently under threat. Sea World's Polar Bear Shores is part of a global breeding program. It provides the optimum conditions to ensure the bears enjoy a healthy and happy environment so they might eventually produce offspring. Sea World transported the two polar bears last November - a 17 year old female, Kanook, from Tucson, Arizona, and a five year old male, Ping Ping, from Beijing, China. They have settled in well to their new home. "Planning and development of Polar Bear Shores was carried out over a three-year period," said Mark Lawrence, Sea World's Electrical Supervisor.
The result, at 1,400 square meters in area with a 600,000 liters pool, is the largest and most sophisticated enclosure of its kind in the world. Its electronics allow Sea World to recreate the weather conditions of an Arctic tundra by controlling the air and water temperature as well as creating winds up to 50 knots (there are fans from 4kW to 11kW), fogs (everything up to a 'pea-souper', via 300 fog-misting nozzles), and rain, from light showers to a severe storm.
This perfect environment is created using five Altivar 18 variable speed drives (VSDs) to run the weather-making equipment. The VSDs are wired back to a control panel through Harmony ZB4 control and signaling units. The control panel, custom-made in-house by Sea World, incorporates a series of Harmony ZB4 panel switches and indicators and allows individual control of the fans and other system components.
The control panel is situated in a central control room which also contains a closed circuit television system so the keepers can keep a close eye on the animals' behaviour and on the weather. "We had the option of PLC control but chose manual control so our keepers could ensure the bears' comfort by quickly adjusting the system in response to changing weather conditions," said Mr Lawrence.
Everything possible has been done to ensure the polar bears feel at home in their new environment, including installing a 6 meters high, 1.5 meter deep waterfall and a high capacity fresh water brook, with a fountain pumped through an Altivar 18 controlling an 11kW motor. Steve Boehme, Sales Engineer, Schneider Electric, said he was very happy with the relationship which has been built up with Sea World over the years. "Sea World uses Schneider Electric equipment in several other areas of the park as well," said Mr Boehme. "It's a very interesting site and we know our equipment helps entertain a lot of people."