versus a traditional cooling and hot water plant, with the heat pump chiller expected to save $287,000 of gas every year, and 17 million gallons of water. CHP AND ENERGY TECHNOLOGIES The potential for CHP to dramatically improve efficiency and reduce emissions is profound, and district energy allows for regionally-specific solutions to be applied on a broad scale. “In the Midwest, we still have some universities that are burning coal, so if you can convert them to natural gas, that’s a huge environmental benefit,” says Mr. Clark. “Meanwhile out in California we have some clients who don’t want to burn any fossil fuels. They’re looking at heat pump technology, and solar, and other methods of generating energy. The great thing about district energy is you can implement efficiency and sustainability projects on a much larger scale than on a local, building level, and so whatever you’re doing, you can have a much greater impact.”
A FIRST IN EFFICIENCY Burns & McDonnell is currently finishing up a new chilled water generation plant at UT Austin, for which they were the prime design firm working alongside Flintco Construction. The project, consisting of a 15,000 ton chilling station and a 5,500,000 gallon thermal energy storage tank, will be the seventh cooling station on the campus. But there’s nothing routine about this project. “It will be arguably the most energy-efficient chilled water plant in the country,” says Mr. Clark. “It has optimization technology built in at every turn – the piping, the pumping, the way the chillers have been selected, the type of controls, and the type of cooling tower. Juan Ontiveros heads up the utilities there, and he prides himself on having the most efficient systems available. It’s in the final stages of completion right now, and it will serve their new medical school, which is the only medical school in the U.S. in the last 30 years to have been built from scratch.” As a result of the optimizations, the project is expected to save up to 25,000MWh/year
COLLABORATIVE ENVIRONMENT Burns & McDonnell maintains a deep level of involvement in the International District Energy Association (IDEA). Mr. Clark is currently a second-time board member, serving alongside several other individuals from the company. “We also typically have anywhere from three to five speakers at the annual conference and the campus conference, and we take eight to 12 people to every conference,” says Mr. Clark. “We’re a major sponsor, and we always have a booth and are active in their trade show.” For Mr. Clark, participation in IDEA brings many rewards. “It’s an amazing col-
laborative environment, very rich in terms of the amount of technical knowledge that gets exchanged and the networking that goes on. Our engineers learn a lot about district energy and new trends, and we get the opportunity to share our experiences with other people. It’s a major part of what we do on an annual basis, because we believe in the organization and what they stand for.” THE FUTURE OF DISTRICT ENERGY Recently, Burns & McDonnell has begun doing a lot of work on microgrids, and it is here that Mr. Clark sees more investment to come. “Large utilities are seeing a huge shift in their markets,” says Mr. Clark. “In the past, utilities have built coal-fired power plants that are 1,000MW or bigger. They’re really shifting their focus to distributed generation and microgrids, looking at their largest customers and going and negotiating power purchase agreements and putting distributed power in those sites. We’ve got half a dozen projects in that space under development now. It’s a huge shift in the utility environment in the U.S., and we’re seeing it start to pick up momentum.” Mr. Clark sees it as an exciting time to be in district energy. “There are all kinds of things utilities can do that a private developer can’t. The opportunities for district energy are increasing exponentially because of the utility companies’ involvement. You’re talking about companies that have billions of dollars of capital expenditure that can make investments at a reasonable return, versus individual owners trying to do one-off projects with a higher rate of return requirement. It’s really blowing the doors open on district energy.” c
WATER-COOLED ELECTRIC CENTRIFUGAL CHILLERS.
SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS MAGAZINE
Sustainable Business Magazine Issue 06/16