Water cooling tank expects to cut UNL energy costs

East Campus water tank

East Campus water tank

This 2.1-million-gallon water tank on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s East Campus supplies chilled water to campus buildings for cooling.

LINCOLN, NEB – 01/13/2014 – Students enjoy warmer temperatures
as they return to classes for the spring semester on Monday, Jan.
13, 2014, on UNL’s city campus. KRISTIN STREFF/Lincoln Journal

Posted: Tuesday, December 27, 2016 8:00 pm

Updated: 11:15 pm, Tue Dec 27, 2016.

Water cooling tank expects to cut UNL energy costs

Lincoln Journal Star

Hiawatha World Online


Holding 8.1 million gallons of water, the specialized tank being built at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln will provide cooling capabilities to City Campus buildings during peak summer demand times.

The $11.9 million tank under construction near 17th and Y streets north of the landscape services building is expected to go online in spring 2018.

When it does, the tank will supply chilled water to City Campus for six to eight hours during the hottest parts of the day, then replenish itself overnight and on weekends when energy use at the university is lower than usual.

The goal, university engineers said, is to flatten UNL’s energy costs.

Like many large electricity users, the university is billed for the amount of energy used as well as charged on demand. The demand charge is established during periods of highest energy use — typically hot summer days when the fall semester is getting underway.

The water tank — welded plate steel surrounded by insulation and coated with aluminum paneling — will work like a battery, holding chilled water in reserve for use to offset electric costs during those peak usage times.

UNL predicts the tank will help cut energy costs by $850,000 to $900,000 annually.

“The thermal energy storage tank allows us to shift the energy used to chill water away from peak-demand periods during the day to lower-demand times at night and on weekends,” said Stefan Newbold, assistant director and engineering manager for facilities planning and construction.

A smaller tank that operates the same way has been in use on East Campus near 38th Street and East Campus Loop since 2012. That 2.1-million-gallon tank saves about $350,000 in annual energy costs, UNL said.

Newbold said while the tanks are a very simple concept, they can result in big savings.

UNL and other NU campuses are preparing for cuts in the upcoming budget year after Gov. Pete Ricketts said he would propose a flat two-year budget to state lawmakers in January.

Keeping the budget flat means the university will need to make cuts to accommodate shifting priorities for the Legislature.

In addition to slashing energy costs for existing UNL buildings, the new tank will be able to serve new university facilities east of Salt Creek, the university said.

“This new tank will allow us to meet campus cooling needs any time a chiller has to go offline for repairs or maintenance,” Newbold said. “It also extends the lifespan of the chillers by reducing the number of hours they have to operate.”

Reach the writer at 402-473-7120 or cdunker@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @ChrisDunkerLJS.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2016 8:00 pm.

Updated: 11:15 pm.

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