Austin Energy enters ESPC for cooling plant upgrade


As the nation's eighth largest community-owned electric utility, Austin Energy has been said to have the top performing renewable energy program, as well as the first and largest green building program in the country.

Building on its record energy efficiency, Austin Energy has entered into an Energy Savings Performance Contract (ESPC) with Ameresco on a $5.2 million budget-neutral Domain District Cooling Plant project. The contract includes the installation of a new chilled water storage system to reduce the plant's peak electricity usage by shifting the chilled water load and associated electric consumption from on-peak to off-peak hours.

Austin Energy's district cooling plant installs and maintains the piping and heat exchangers that distribute chilled water from its plant to individual buildings via a network of underground pipes. The upgraded system will be comprised of a 2.4 million gallon concrete thermal energy storage (TES) tank, whose circulation will be maintained by three 200 horsepower horizontal split case pumps controlled by variable frequency drives.

The energy management system will be upgraded to control and monitor the new TES system. New mechanical piping and associated mechanical devices will connect the new pumps to the TES tank. In addition, all the existing domestic water closets, showerheads and faucet aerators will be replaced with more efficient fixtures.

The project is expected to be completed by December 2013.

In addition to improving the efficiency of its own facilities, Austin Energy is encouraging its customers to do the same. Austin Energy has brought back the "Best Offer Ever" -- an opportunity for residents to receive both rebates and a loan to make energy-efficiency improvements to their home. The rebates can be up to $3,200 or more -- the most ever offered -- and cover as much as a third of the cost improvements. The remainder of the balance can be financed with a low-interest loan.

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