New utility plant will support a supercomputer & OSU’s sustainability goals

The Jen-Hsun and Lori Huang Collaborative Innovation Complex is set to significantly transform the Corvallis campus, both through its physical presence on NW Monroe Ave. and through the accelerated learning and research possibilities it promises to bring. But as OSU continues to explore the frontiers of disciplines such as climate science, artificial intelligence, semiconductors and robotics, challenges inevitably arise from an operational perspective. One of these challenges is how to keep these complex and highly specialized research facilities at the perfectly balanced, Goldilocks temperature necessary to maintain all of their sensitive equipment.

In the case of the Huang Collaborative Innovation Complex, the solution is a new heating and cooling system known as the Kelley District Utility Plant (KDUP) which Construction Manager Justin Fuszek describes as “a centralized plant to recover and deliver energy to buildings.”

The KDUP will contain a chilled water loop system to supply cooling to all connected buildings, which is important even during the winter months due to the high volume of heat-generating equipment in these facilities. In the past, excess heat generated from lab equipment and server rooms would be discharged to the outside via exhaust fans and rooftop cooling towers, which is how a typical HVAC system is designed to work. However, all that discharged heat results in extra costs and wasted energy. The Huang Collaborative Innovation Complex poses an even greater challenge due to the planned installation of a supercomputer, which will generate an immense amount of heat.

In simple terms, instead of wasting all the excess heat generated by the supercomputer, server rooms and lab equipment, the KDUP is designed to not only keep connected buildings cool, but also recapture that heat and feed it back into spaces that need it. The ability to fine-tune and balance heating vs. cooling is part of what makes these systems hyper-efficient.

“We’re harvesting energy that we were previously wasting,” Capital Renewal Project Manager Ryan Wilson explained. “We’re taking the leftover energy and using it somewhere else.”

One significant benefit of the heat recovery feature is the reduced demand on OSU’s steam system, which in turn reduces dependence on fossil fuel usage. By utilizing heat recovery, the overall burden on the steam system drops.

The KDUP will be housed in the basement of Kelley Engineering Center and serve multiple buildings in the area, including the Huang Collaborative Innovation Complex, Kelley Engineering Center and Johnson Hall. Future plans include connections to Plageman Hall and Gleason Hall.

The KDUP project is part of OSU’s broader capital renewal program, which is supported by state funding. Capital renewal projects extend the life of building systems and address critical maintenance issues. The KDUP will replace aging HVAC equipment at Kelley Engineering Center and ultimately reduce costs by creating a centralized system as opposed to maintaining individual HVAC systems in each building.

The KDUP is poised to become the second district utility plant on campus, joining the North District Utility Plant (NDUP) which was completed in 2021. In the future, the two plants will be connected, which will increase heating and cooling capacity and create even greater efficiency. The KDUP is expected to be completed by 2026.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email