UT-Austin Energy Center Upgrade One of the Most Efficient in the U.S.

The University of Texas at Austin made major strides in rethinking energy efficiency during a period of unprecedented campus growth. With the recent $800 million addition of the Dell Medical School and the Dell Seton Medical Center, the University of Texas took the opportunity to increase efficiency of an already excellent district energy center serving the entire campus.

Completed in August 2016, a $76 million project to add a new chilling station and large new thermal storage facility has increased the university's capacity to serve a larger base of users, while saving energy and enhancing its ability to serve the all-new medical district. Burns & McDonnell teamed with Flintco to provide engineering design and construction of the Chilling Station No. 7 project.

During planning for the medical district's energy needs, the objective was to build on a district energy system that already was one of the most efficient in the nation. Planners recognized that by increasing energy efficiency through the addition of new chilled water capacity they could avoid the costs of adding more power generating capacity to the existing campus microgrid and generating units.

A new 5.5 million gallon storage tank at the new chiller station provides 52,000 ton-hours of storage, enabling the university to save on energy costs by shutting down chilled water-producing equipment during peak hours. This gives the university the ability to shift nearly six megawatts of power demand to off-peak hours, providing a significant leveling effect by allowing combustion gas turbines to operate at a steady output that ensures they operate within the most efficient range for gas consumption and power output.

The project also has improved water efficiency throughout the district energy complex. Cooling facilities of the scale of those serving the University of Texas campus typically depend on large volumes of water. With drought conditions becoming more widespread throughout various regions of the country, the system was designed to avoid this potential scenario with a redesigned system that can draw on four potential sources of water, most notably including recovered water from condensate produced by building air handling units that otherwise would have been drained into area sanitary sewer system.

This is a guiding example of sustainable construction and renewable methods that could potentially be used on many construction projects in the future.

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