For the aging building stock from 50 years ago as well as for the tall buildings to be created during the next 50 years, developing a centralized district cooling plant is an appealing and sustainable solution.
Why would a centralized district cooling plant be better than individual plants? For older buildings, it can be expensive and disruptive to replace end-of-life chiller plant equipment. Connection to a central district cooling system requires significantly less real estate and capital cost. For new buildings, central district cooling systems reduce first cost, cut maintenance cost and can be more sustainable than individual building plants.
Further, energy efficiency increases with larger, more efficient chiller equipment, and the plant will operate with a stable load profile, rather than responding to individual building load spikes. The installed cooling capacity will be greatly reduced since the centralized plant can account for significant diversity, resulting in lower equipment and installation costs and economies of scale, among other benefits.
We will analyze data from projects worldwide and use a theoretical energy model to test our hypothesis through simulation. We will assess how much more efficient a centralized district cooling plant is and how much installed capacity can be reduced compared to individual plants. We will define best-practice approaches based on simulations of centralized plant variations. We will show that district plants can facilitate a 10-20% reduction in installed cooling capacity -- or up to a 50% reduction if thermal storage is utilized. We will show why centralized district cooling plants will lead to a more sustainable future.