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UAlbany Quells Chiller to Stem Heat Wave

Contact: Catherine Herman (518) 956-8150

ALBANY, N.Y. (August 2, 2006) -- The University at Albany's $3.5 million absorption chiller air cooling project, adopted last August through a partnership with the New York Power Authority (NYPA) and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), is playing a crucial role in the University's efforts to reduce energy strains on the state's electric grid during this North East heat wave.

UAlbany officials and plant representatives wasted no time shutting down one of three Centravacs Tuesday in response to a state-wide Emergency Energy Alert issued by the NYS Public Service Commission, Office of Electricity and Environment. The order, in effect from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, applies to all facilities in New York State until further notice

"The University is doing everything possible to conserve energy during energy emergencies," said President Kermit L. Hall. "UAlbany must be vigilant in its efforts to minimize energy usage while at the same time providing a safe environment for those working at and visiting the campus."

In addition to reducing the chiller operation in the Central Chill Plant, the University has also shut down elevators in buildings with multiple units; turned off bathroom and roof exhausts and other extraneous fans; and shut down their three fountains—including the main fountain, which functions as the campus epicenter from both an aesthetic and communal standpoint.

"The absorption chillers, which provide about half the University's chilled water for air-conditioning, are extremely efficient and provide both cost and energy savings over our electric Centravac units," said Brian Chrapowitzky, Plant Utilities Engineer IV. "Because they run off our boiler system they draw a relatively small amount of current [less than 75 amps] compared to the Centravacs [1100 amps]."

Chrapowitzky explained that without the absorption chillers, reduced consumption could only be achieved through shutting down the entire cooling system. Instead, they shut down one electric Centravac and set the other two units to draw only draw 85 percent of their maximum electric load. The University also limited the 350-ton capacity chiller in the Recreation and Convocation Center (RACC).

As the region moves into day two of 100-degree weather, UAlbany students, faculty, and staff have been urged to reduce electrical demand through limiting the use of personal, office, and laboratory equipment where possible including turning off lights and personal equipment when not in use; reducing the use of comfort appliances such as coffee pots, microwaves, and fans; refraining from adjusting individual thermostats; and reducing elevator usage. Supervisors have also been encouraged to authorize casual attire, where it will not create a potential safety issue, and if it's appropriate to their work environment.

UAlbany's chiller project will recoup its cost in approximately 14 years through an energy performance program developed by NYPA in which annual electricity savings pay back the capital for project costs. As an incentive to reduce electrical consumption—especially during hot summer months when there is a tremendous strain on the state's electric grid—NYSERDA offered the University up to $500,000 in funding to pay for the project.

The combined total annual savings from the two absorption chillers was approximately $274,000 with the cost of natural gas at $9.50/mmbtu [one million btu] v. electric at >$29/mmbtu. Additionally, local energy fuel consumption was 70-80 percent efficient v. typical electrical production, which is only 45-50 percent efficient.


The University at Albany's broad mission of excellence in undergraduate and graduate education, research and public service engages more than 17,000 diverse students in 10 schools and colleges. For more information about this internationally ranked institution, visit the University at Albany. Visit UAlbany's extensive roster of Faculty Experts.

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