Sofia Anestam '26, Environmental Engineering and Sustainability dual major

As we all know, the earth is heating up. July 4, 2023, was the hottest date on record. In Boston, summertime temperatures have averaged a degree above the average for 8 of the past 15 years. UNH, along with the rest of New England, struggles to meet the energy demand for cooling on extreme hot days. As the temperature continues to increase, this demand will become even more of a challenge. We need innovative cooling solutions in order to keep us safe and comfortable during the summer months.

My name is Sofia Anestam and I am a junior environmental engineering and sustainability dual major. I am the Climate and Energy Intern with the Sustainability Institute. Since UNH tracks their greenhouse gas emissions annually and has been doing so for longer than most other universities, a major part of my job is to compile emissions data. This is important to show UNH’s progress in reducing emissions and identify areas for improvement.

This internship has given me a firsthand view of UNH’s sustainability goals and the actions we have taken to reduce our footprint. Students can and have contributed to these efforts. Have you noticed the construction happening next to Philbrook Hall? This is the thermal energy storage (TES) tank, which came out of a student, Jaclyn Kinson’s, project with the energy office.

thermal energy tank construction sign

The TES tank is a solution to the cooling challenges that we are facing. The tank is projected to be completed in the fall of 2024. Instead of installing a new chiller plant to produce energy for cooling, the TES tank will store chilled water produced by the existing chiller plants. The TES tank stores chilled water that is produced during off-peak nighttime hours, when it is cheaper and more efficient to cool water. Our current energy system relies on landfill gas, which is a renewable fuel source. Since there is less energy demand at night, UNH is able to cool water using only this renewable fuel. There is more chilled water produced at night than we need, so the excess is stored in the TES tank. The water can then be released for use in air conditioning during the day, when the demand is high. This decreases the amount of additional energy that must be purchased to meet demand during peak hours. Using stored energy reduces cost and decreases dependence on non-renewable energy sources.

The TES tank is an efficient way of storing and distributing energy for cooling that will help UNH reach its ambitious goals highlighted in its Climate Action Plan, WildCAP. The need for cooling will continue to increase in the future, and this project ensures that UNH will be resilient to this demand.