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Chiller plant optimization project reaps significant energy savings for Georgia College

Georgia College recently secured a $120,454 rebate check from Georgia Power and will see $65,000 in annual energy savings for its demand-flow sustainability initiative—the largest ever on campus to date. 

Georgia College received the rebate check within six months of completion of the chiller plant optimization project. 

“The best part of this rebate is that the funds will be used to support other sustainability projects, specifically, the installation of LED lighting at the intramural fields, which in turn will save Georgia College money by reducing the electric usage needed to light the fields,” said Mark Duclos, assistant vice president, Facilities Operations. “We will then receive another rebate from Georgia Power for the LED lights and that money will be used towards another sustainability project.”

A team of eight Georgia College HVAC technicians recently installed variable frequency drives (VFD) to reduce peak electrical demand. The VFDs were installed on all central plant chilled water pumps in the plant and buildings, condenser water pumps and cooling tower fans to optimize system operations.

VFDs were installed on some pumps and fans at Georgia College as early as 2010. Then, in 2018, the university received funding to optimize the chiller plant, which required additional VFDs to be installed and then programmed to work together.

The chiller plant and associated chilled water distribution system are controlled by the devices, which are connected to our Siemens Building Automation System. Siemens has developed a program they call “Demand Flow” which monitors roughly 26,000 data points throughout the system. Demand Flow uses this information to make decisions on the most efficient way to operate the chiller plant and chilled water distribution.

“This project allows for better control of the chiller plant and chilled water distribution,” he said. “Having control allows us to optimize the system and save energy. Without proper control, it’s difficult to prevent the chiller plant from making too much chilled water and then pumping it around campus and back to the plant still chilled. That process wastes a lot of energy and requires constant manual intervention to prevent this from happening. The decision was made to optimize the plant to save the energy and make it easier for our technicians to operate the plant.” 

VFDs can run in both manual and automatic modes. To achieve the energy savings from this project, they run in automatic mode and are controlled by the logic controllers by Siemens—GC’s partner in the demand-flow project. 

Duclos forecasts the ripple effects of this initiative. 

“With the cost of higher education rising, it is important that we look at ways to reduce costs thus helping to keep tuition down for our students,” he said. “This action is also important because of the sustainability aspect. Less energy consumed is less energy produced at a power plant.”

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