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Province pumps $5.8 million into U of G air conditioning project

The new thermal energy cooling system - which employs a huge water tank - has already saved the school a bunch of cash, say officials

A new energy initiative at the University of Guelph is well on its way to paying for itself.

Monday morning saw Ontario Minister of Energy Glenn Thibeault announce a $5.8 million energy incentive to the U of G for its new thermal energy cooling system that uses a 22-million-litre water tank to power the school's air conditioning system.

Water is cooled in the tank overnight and pumped around campus during the day.

That new system has already saved the school $2.5 million in energy savings.

"This was a great engineering challenge: structurally, mechanically and electrically," said Dan MacLachlan, acting associate vice-president of physical resources who led the project.

"It's been quite a ride designing, building and now operating this big fella' behind me."

The huge 30-metre high storage tank sits in a parking lot on the east side of the campus, just off College Avenue.

The new thermal energy storage system, built over two years, cost $15 million.

Thibeault told a gathering of U of G administrators and those involved with the project that it was a shining example of energy innovation.

"This initiative is a great example of getting creative with energy storage solutions that help cut costs and benefit Ontario's energy grid," Thibeault said.

The energy savings alone thus far are the equivalent of taking close to 2,000 homes off the energy grid, the gathering was told Monday.

The thermal energy cooling sysem is part of a $26.2 million campus energy retrofit called the Green Gryphon Initiative that is partially funded by a $10 per-student contribution.

U of G President Franco Vaccarino said the school is committed to an energy future that is sustainable and reliable.

"It's a win-win-win for the university and the province," Vaccarino said. "We reduce energy use and costs, which helps our bottom line. The province lowers daytime electricity use and the other win here is seeing the power of our knowledge come to life in real ways and meaningful ways."