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Upgraded cooling plant a key piece in $60 million in energy savings

Charlie Jackson

By Alyssa Yancey, News Promotions

The Department of Facilities will host a ribbon cutting and open house April 17 to mark upgrades made to the North Chiller Plant, one of two facilities responsible for cooling more than 3 million square feet of office, research and classroom space.

The overhaul of the cooling facility is part of a larger project expected to save the university more than $60 million over the next 20 years.

The ribbon cutting will begin at 10 a.m., and the open house will be until 2 p.m. at the facility in the Power Plant, near the Physics Building.

The facility was upgraded by Schneider Electric, as part of a campuswide, 30-month energy savings project known as UNT SMART (Save/Measure/Achieve/Reduce/Track). The project, which began during the fall of 2010, is expected to save an estimated $3.2 million a year for at least the next 20 years.

“The upgraded chiller plant, along with the associated chilled water distribution loop, is the most significant contributor to our energy savings goals that UNT has completed in many years,” said Charlie Jackson, above, assistant vice president for facilities. “Modernizing our infrastructure in this manner will enable the university to support future growth, as well as enhance our sustainability efforts. This portion of the project alone will reduce our annual electrical consumption by almost 4.5 million kwh.”

The chiller plant keeps the campus cool by pumping water cooled to 42 degrees through nearly six miles of newly installed underground piping to 39 campus buildings. After heat is extracted from the buildings, the water travels back to the power plant through return piping to be recooled.

The North Chiller Plant produces 3,750 tons of cooling capacity. A second chiller plant in the Highland Street Parking Garage produces an additional 2,500 tons of cooling capacity, bringing the main campus’ total capacity to more than 6,200 tons – enough capacity to provide air conditioning to more than 2,000 average-sized homes.

SMART energy efficiency projectThree old chillers were replaced with three new, more energy-efficient chillers in the North Chiller Plant, as part of the UNT SMART project. The plant was also transitioned from a constant volume pumping design to a variable primary pumping design.

This change saves energy by pumping only the amount of chilled water needed. These changes, along with upgrades to the cooling towers and electrical system, will result in energy savings equivalent to more than four million kilowatt hours per year.

The replacement and expansion of the underground chilled water loop has been the most noticeable portion of UNT SMART, since it includes digging large pits and doing directional drilling for 5.8 miles of pipeline. The original loop was made of steel, which had begun to corrode. The new loop is constructed of high-density polyethylene, which will be stronger, more durable and corrosion resistant. The chilled water loop is about 70 percent complete, with 30 of the 39 buildings connected.

In addition to the upgrades to the chiller plant and the chilled water loop, the UNT SMART project also included lighting, water, electrical and HVAC upgrades to 84 campus buildings.

Once completed, the project will provide energy savings equivalent to removing 13,810 tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere annually, which is comparable to removing 2,708 cars from the roads. 

 

Posted on: Wed 04 April 2012

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