Crews finish water tank construction at USU

With the completion of a new subterranean thermal energy storage tank, a gaping crater in a field adjacent the HPER Building has been filled, and now construction crews will begin work on the Aggie Legacy Fields. The tank is meant to improve USU’s air-conditioning system while conserving energy, said Ben Berrett, director of planning, design and construction on campus. The university currently chills water at a central location and pumps it to most of the buildings on campus to cool the air, he said. Berrett said to save money the tank will cool water at night for use in the daytime. “We get charged a premium for using power during the peak of the day,” Berrett said. “Essentially, power is more expensive when you need it for air conditioning.” The 130-foot diameter and 35-foot deep tank can hold approximately 2 million gallons, Berrett said. Another advantage of chilling water at night is increased efficiency, so less electricity is needed to chill the water, Berrett said. The tank could also help the university in the event of a power outage, Berrett said. “There are some operational advantages,” he said. “If you have a momentary power outage during the day — or if one of our chillers fails during the day — it becomes a large buffer.” Computer servers and data centers could be kept at operational temperature in the event of a power outage, something that would be difficult with more conventional air-conditioning methods, Berrett said. Installation of the tank cost $2.6 million, said Lorin Mortensen, a mechanical engineer for USU Facilities and tank project coordinator. The tank should save the school about $2.6 million over the course of about 20 years, according to estimates, Mortensen said. However, since energy costs are difficult to predict over a 20-year span, that estimate may not reflect actual savings, he added. “That’s a very theoretical number,” Mortensen said. “If you’re looking at replacing your lights with higher efficiency lights, you know pretty well what electric prices are going to be in two years. They’re going to be close. But in 20 years, are we going to be on coal, or are we going to be on solar or wind or nuclear? A lot can change in electric prices in 20 years.”

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