Sunday, March 29, 2009

Wearing Crocs in the Cold

Our last activity before leaving Chena Hot Springs was to take their Geothermal Renewable Energy tour. Ray and I had watched a video in the resort lobby about how, in 2006, a geothermal power plant had been built at Chena Hot Springs. The plant was somewhat unique, as far as geothermal power plants go, because Chena’s natural hot water was only 165° F, much cooler than what is needed to generate steam, and yet they figured out a way to generate power from it.

Most impressive is the way they use that power. Not only do they cool the ice museum and provide lights and other power to the resort, but they have a greenhouse! Yes, they grow vegetables, year round, in a greenhouse located next to the parking lot. You know...the parking lot with the outlets to plug in your car's engine warmer if you ever hope to start it again. Even if the temperature is 55° F below zero outside, they can maintain the greenhouse at a constant 75° F temperature. We were impressed, especially since we had eaten at the restaurant and enjoyed the fabulous and fresh vegetables grown there. Ray and I told Rebecca all about the greenhouse, and we decided to stay for the tour to see it in person.

Since we were swimming just before going on the greenhouse tour, and would be in the warm car just after the tour, Rebecca decided that instead of wearing clunky boots, she would wear her crocs to the pool and the tour. You know crocs, right? The plastic shoes with little holes in them?

The crocs worked great at the pool, but it turned out that the tour was not just of the greenhouse, right near the warm car, but involved walking quite a ways across the snow to the power plant. Here’s a photo of the power plant, and the ceiling-to-floor icicle that we found there:

Rebecca was quite a trooper, trudging through the snow in her well-ventilated crocs. A man from Los Angeles, warmly bundled in snow gear, saw her and asked:
“Where are you from?”
“I’m a local, from Fairbanks” she told him.
“Wow. So people from Fairbanks wear crocs, even when it’s 10° below?” he asked.
He was impressed. She explained the circumstances to him, and he was still impressed. We were too.

Here are some photos of the greenhouse. All the plants are grown without soil, hydroponically.

They are even able to grow tomatoes there, on very long vines. The floor is painted white, unique for greenhouses, to maximize the impact of the limited winter light they receive there. Without the white floors, the bottom side of the tomatoes would never ripen.

We were very impressed. Not only with the power plant and greenhouse, but especially with Rebecca, uncomplaining in her crocs.

1 comment:

sillybobs said...

Sounds cold. ;) Hopefully we'll have a bit warmer weather for your trip here! Looking forward to seeing you soon...