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When the big chill is too big, a more sustainable substitute cools Galen Center

The massive motors used to cool the arena can take a break now that a smaller “pony chiller” has been installed to cut energy use.

“Nobody knows we’re here or what we do, but if we didn’t do it, people would notice right away.”

That’s how Craig Drown sums up his work. As an energy services expert, he helps design systems that air out and cool campus buildings, including the 300,000-square-foot arena where Trojan basketball games and other university events are held.

Galen Center can seat over 10,000 comfortably — but that comfort comes at a cost. Cooling and ventilation can account for almost one-third of a building’s energy usage.

That usage will drop significantly now that a ‘pony chiller’ is up and running at the Galen Center. It weighs in at seven tons and has enough power to cool about 83 standard-size homes. Still, it’s only a third the size of Galen Center’s big chillers. Each of those has a capacity of 405 kilowatts. The pony chiller, rated at 153 kilowatts, will kick on during off-peak times when the building’s population can dwindle to as low as a hundred people.

“We call those light load conditions,” Drown said. “Say you just have a computer room and some back offices that need cooling. You don’t have to run the big chiller for that. This is going to save a lot of energy quickly.”

Six other buildings around campus, including Waite Phillips Hall, have been outfitted with pony chillers. Those retrofits will contribute to energy savings that are a key part of President Carol L. Folt’s sustainability initiative.

The arena’s first major post-pandemic event could be as early as August. And though the air in the Galen Center will be as fresh and cool as ever, the pregame energy savings have already begun.

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When the big chill is too big, a more sustainable substitute cools Galen Center

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