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University of Virginia Wins the 2021 IDEA Innovation Award

By District Energy posted 10-05-2021 06:02


On Tuesday, September 28 at the IDEA2021 Annual Conference in Austin, Texas, IDEA presented the University of Virginia the coveted 2021 IDEA Innovation Award for their submission, Automated Chiller Tube Cleaning Improves Chilled Water Plant Efficiency.  The award was presented in person at the IDEA Networking and Recognition Lunch to Paul Zmick, Director of Energy and Utilities at UVA. Innovas Technologies was also a key partner to UVA.

In 2014, UVA was presented a little-known technology from Innovas Technologies, designed to automate tube cleaning and tube fouling prevention in their chiller condensers, and was interested in testing the overall impact to chilled water plant operations. Seven years later, UVA’s decision to innovate has led to widespread technology adoption at UVA. The university now operates 20 water-cooled chillers with automated tube cleaning systems, delivering approximately 20,000 tons of cooling.

You can read their story but viewing their submission here.

IDEA Innovation Award Committee Chair Bob Smith presents Paul Zmick of UVA with the 2021 IDEA Innovation Award

“The Chiller Plants team at the University of Virginia is honored to have been recognized this year by IDEA.”, said Justin Callihan, Chiller Plants, Associate Director, Energy and Utilities at UVA who submitted the application to be considered for the Innovation Award. “While the initial vision and strategy that led to this point was conceived by just a few, it took a true team effort to stay the course. Without adoption by operations and maintenance personnel, efforts like these can, and often do, fall short of their intended target.”

“Not only did the team members adopt the new technology initially, they supported the additional installations in a multitude of ways and have even made some enhancements to systems. In an industry (Energy and Utilities) where success often means no one knows you exist unless something bad happens, it can be difficult to find innovative solutions that are worth the risk. This was a perfect example of a low risk and elegant solution to a well-known issue. Again, many thanks to the IDEA organization and the Chiller Plant team members that made it all happen.”

This year was one of the most difficult selection processes in recent memory, with several fantastic submissions worthy of consideration. Innovation Award Chairman Bob Smith echoed this sentiment. "This year's entries for the innovation award were submitted by IDEA members in multiple countries and represented a diverse collection of technical and business ideas. Innovations like UVA’s clearly demonstrate effective ways to improve and optimize system performance and efficiency."

In recognition of the high number of diverse and worthy submissions, the IDEA Innovation Award Committee awarded an unprecedented three Honorable Mention nods to the following organizations:

Everactive Wireless Batteryless Continuous Steam Trap Monitoring at UVA Steam Distribution System – submitted by UVA and Everactive

Blatchford Renewable Energy District Energy Sharing System – submitted by City of Edmonton

DePauw University’s Campus Energy Management Project (CEMP) – submitted by Ecosystem

Each year, the IDEA Innovation Award continues to showcase the ingenuity, know-how and desire to find a solution to any challenge so prevalent within our member community. As IDEA President and CEO Rob Thornton notes, “The IDEA 2021 Innovation Award is representative of the powerful impact of collaboration within the district energy industry, where technology providers assist operators and end-users with implementing and optimizing energy and resource efficiency.  At a granular level, the IDEA Innovation Award showcases how and where best practices produce positive results and paves the way for replication and wider adoption.“

About the IDEA Innovation Award
The IDEA Innovation Award showcases examples of technology, engineering and operational innovation within the district energy industry. Presented annually at IDEA's Annual Conference & Trade Show, the award is evaluated in four main categories:

  • Ingenuity: the technology has to be a new technical, business, or operating practice that shows ingenuity.
  • Measured Success: the technology must be working for a sustained period of time with demonstrated efficiency success that can be measured.
  • Replicable: the innovation must be replicable, meaning that this idea can be easily applied elsewhere.
  • Economic & Environmental: the innovation must demonstrate economic and environmental benefits.