Press Room

The Wave – November 2016

President’s Letter

Ken Smith

Ken Smith

I started my professional career as an electrical engineer designing infrastructure projects. The work was challenging and rewarding as I worked on complex projects around the globe. While I enjoyed solving technical challenges, what motivated me the most was collaborating with my talented colleagues to deliver exceptional results.

The people side of the business is what continues to motivate me today. With the busy holiday season upon us, I want to pause in consideration of the people that make this work so rewarding and who help us to be successful in our mission. I want to say thank you to our customers, our partners, and our team.

To the people that we serve, our customers, thank you for continuing to put your trust in us to provide you with reliable heating and cooling services. District energy works best when the buildings and the energy system that serves them are working together. The efficiency, reliability, and cost-effectiveness of the heating and cooling systems is a result of collaborating with our customers to implement best practices for the system and the buildings. As evidenced by the 83 operating engineers that attended our annual training in October, many of you are committed to continuous system improvement to get the most out of your buildings and the system. The entire team at District Energy takes great pride in serving the needs of our customers. Our team thanks you for your business.

As the Saint Paul building market has evolved, we have responded with solutions that meet the changing needs of our customer base, including new potential customers and the emerging residential market. As downtown continues to grow, we are committed to working with our current customers as well as new developers in the market to help them determine their best energy solutions. Growing our customer base lowers costs for all of our customers, so we are excited to see the continued activity downtown and new prospects for customer projects and developments. As you are working on projects, please give us a call, and our outstanding engineering staff will help you to generate ideas and work through options at no cost. The earlier you engage our team in the process, the more value we can provide.

Thank you to our partners that serve, support, and help us to grow our business. Many of our partners have buildings on the system. We also work with organizations and individuals who have an interest in the vibrancy of Saint Paul as well as broader concerns about sustainability and our collective energy future. To all of these partners, thank you for the myriad of ways that you support our work, including your collaboration in advancing the big ideas that impact Saint Paul and Minnesota.

Of course, our exceptional service and community connections could not be possible without the dedicated team at District Energy. We have had another great year of service with a constant eye on reliability, efficiency and optimization, and healthy system growth. Each team member helps to drive our success, and I am grateful for the dedication, passion, and professionalism that they bring to our work each day.

From all of us at District Energy thank you for bolstering our efforts, and we look forward to our continued collaboration. We wish you and yours a happy and healthy holiday season.

Downtown Saint Paul Building Engineers Attend Seminar

Operating Engineers SeminarIn October, we hosted over 80 engineers from our customer buildings for the annual Operating Engineers Seminar. Engineers Jeff Volovsek and Bob Ford are familiar with the mechanical systems in customer buildings, and they presented information and solutions to answer some of the most common questions from customers. Seminar topics included troubleshooting system performance, chilled water Delta T, hot water efficiency, and water treatment. If you have questions about your District Energy mechanical interface, you can contact Jeff and Bob for assistance by calling 651.297.8955.

The presentation from the event is available here. The seminar discussion has spurred more ideas for future training. If you attended, there is still time to fill out the event survey, which will influence our customer programming. Thank you to all who attended.

SciGirls Visit the RiverCentre Solar Installation

SciGirlsA group of 15 members of SciGirls spent the day learning about energy with us on October 11. SciGirls is an educational group that reinforces science skills for middle school girls (ages 9-13) and introduces them to STEM opportunities. The girls started their day by learning about wind farms and then designing and building their own wind demonstration projects out of office supplies. After the students presented their projects to the group, our own Nina Axelson introduced them to the concepts of district energy, biomass-fired combined heat and power, and solar thermal technology. We had a little help with our lesson thanks to this great video we produced in partnership with the Saint Paul Saints. The SciGirls had a great time going on the roof of the RiverCentre to see the solar installation close up. It was fun to host this vibrant group of girls who are so excited about energy. Read more about the day on the SciGirls blog.



District Energy: Making Energy Easy for Our Customers

Over the next few newsletters, we would like to help connect you to more information about your district energy service connection and what benefits it provides to your building, your tenants, and your stakeholders. This month we will start with some community benefits and the advantages of eliminating on-site energy production.

District energy is a globally recognized approach to saving energy, reducing carbon emissions, and for creating opportunities to integrate renewables into smart thermal and electric grids. Buildings connected to district energy networks benefit from decreased capital investments for individual building production equipment, decreased maintenance, decreased stress on valuable building space, and ease of use for operations and permitting.

mechanical-room-piping-webDistrict energy systems deliver thermal energy through steam, hot water, or chilled water that can be used for heating or cooling space and equipment, domestic hot water, and process heating and cooling. By connecting buildings together, customers can eliminate their on-site equipment, including boilers, hot water heaters, and chillers, as well as cooling towers and smokestacks. By reducing energy production assets, customers reduce their up-front capital costs for equipment as well as ongoing maintenance tasks and expenses. If you have five buildings that get their domestic hot water from a district energy system, you have eliminated five individual water heaters that require inspection, repair, and replacement.

District energy customers are relieved of the burden of energy production, which is now managed by the district energy operations team that monitors production 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Additionally, operating the building-side mechanical equipment and controls are simpler than on-site energy production. While the building-side mechanical equipment is sized relative to the building’s needs, it tracust-mechanical-webditionally requires less square footage than energy production equipment. This means district energy customers can utilize more of their real estate for their primary mission. District energy networks are also more reliable than stand-alone building systems that rely on limited equipment assets. Customers that receive energy from a district energy system also eliminate the need for on-site fuel delivery, on-site combustion, cooling towers, smokestacks, and required licensing and permitting.

A district energy system can more easily integrate new fuels and new technology than on-site equipment. When you purchase on-site equipment you are married to the fuel and technology for the life of the equipment. A district system can integrate renewable fuel or energy like biomass, waste heat, and solar. District systems frequently integrate thermal storage that acts like a large-scale battery, which would not be practical for individual buildings. When paired with renewable energy sources and efficient technologies, such as combined heat and power, district energy becomes a key approach to increase energy efficiency and reduce carbon in our communities.

15th Annual Intercity Leadership Visit – Baltimore, Maryland

In October, 95 civic and business leaders from Minneapolis and Saint Paul, and surrounding suburbs, traveled to Baltimore, Maryland, for the 15th Annual Intercity Leadership Visit. The Minneapolis and Saint Paul Chambers of Commerce host this annual trip to study challenges in other urban centers.  Last year the group traveled to Seattle and previous study trips have included San Francisco, Denver, Portland, Austin, Charlotte, Atlanta, Toronto, San Diego, and Boston.

This visit was particularly important as the delegation examined the effects of institutional racism on the communities of Baltimore. Clearly the impacts have been far-reaching, particularly after the Freddie Grey incident that caused so much unrest in the city. The delegation met with leaders from across the city, representing health care, education, housing, economic development, and other sectors. One of the most commonly cited challenges was access to transportation, which disconnected people from available jobs. There is clearly a lot on the line in Baltimore as the city and its partners work to rebuild infrastructure and make investments into helping communities and the next generation, and there was much to consider for how these lessons could be considered in Minnesota.

District Energy St. Paul has been participating in the ICLV program for several years, joining others from the region interested in fundamental civic topics. We have also participated to learn from other utilities and leaders about saving energy, reducing energy costs, and improving the environmental profile of operations. It also gives us the opportunity to better understand how policies and partnerships are delivering economic growth, increasing opportunities for diversity in the workforce, and making the right investments into local education, among other important matters in other regions. Each time we have visited a new city, we have taken lessons back to help our organization and strengthened regional relationships that enable us to with partners to better our city and our region. Special thanks to the trip organizers, sponsors, and the Minneapolis and Saint Paul Chambers for making this trip possible.

The Wave – September 2016

President’s Letter

Ken Smith

Ken Smith

As the summer of 2016 comes to a close, our team is completing our maintenance and upgrade projects in preparation for the heating season. Such infrastructure investments are critical to providing the reliable heating and cooling services District Energy’s customers expect and, in many instances, need to achieve their mission. We have also been investing in new tools that help us further optimize our system performance and provide better information to our customers. Over the last year, our team’s work on increasing heating and cooling efficiencies have meant that we are getting even more energy out of our fuel and electricity inputs. Since we pass the savings gains onto our customers, increasing system efficiencies results in lower energy rates for our heating and cooling customers. Currently District Energy’s customers are paying lower energy rates for both heating and cooling than we forecasted at the beginning of last year.

Over the last two years we have tested and implemented strategies to further optimize the operation of our chillers, cooling towers, and two chilled water storage tanks. This effort resulted in reducing our electricity costs, enabling us to lower the energy rate charged to our customers. We have done this without compromising our reliability. We have also worked closely with our customers to increase the Delta T performance of the HVAC systems in their buildings. Delta T measures how effectively and efficiently a building’s HVAC system is performing. Increasing Delta T is one of the ways customers can greatly improve efficiency and reduce their costs. Additional system improvement projects have focused on data communications, including a collaboration with one of our customers on a pilot project for commercial sub-metering. Another investment we have made in the past 5 years is installing new meters. This week, members of our controls team were on hand at the BOMA Expo to help our customers understand the data and functions of these meters and how customers can use outputs from our meters to better monitor energy usage in their buildings. This is also a great way for customers to improve the performance of their building HVAC systems and reduce their costs.

Our team has also been busy expanding our heating and cooling distribution piping networks to serve new customers. This summer we expanded our system by 1500 trench feet to provide heating and cooling services to new customers including Higher Ground, the Palace Theatre, Seventh Place Apartments, and 333 Sibley.

Providing reliable and efficient service to our customers requires investments. The District Energy team, including its Board of Directors, makes it a priority to keep our rates stable as we make prudent investments to keep our systems reliable and operations efficient. Throughout our 34 years of providing heating service to downtown Saint Paul, we have raised rates 17 times. While we have kept our demand rates flat for five years, starting October 1 our customers will see an increase in our demand rates for both heating and cooling services. The demand rate for heating will be going up by 1.9%, however, the expected overall heating rate (energy plus demand) paid by our customers is projected to be unchanged from the 2016 budgeted rates. Similarly, the overall cooling rate (energy plus demand) is projected to increase 1.4% over the 2016 budgeted rates. Both rate increase remain below the rate of inflation.

Our team strives to improve our operations, optimize our processes, and grow the system with a constant focus of keeping our rates stable and cost-competitive while maintaining our high standard of reliability. We also want to work collaboratively with you to help you save energy and money. As you prepare for the heating season, please check out the tips to maintaining your heating systems to keep your building systems performing well and operating at its best. Please reach out to our team as a resource. Our people are highly trained, and we serve hundreds of buildings, all of which generates tips and ideas that we are happy to share with you to help you save money.  Please do not hesitate to reach out with your questions or for help with your building projects.

Prepare Your Systems for the Heating Season

As we look toward the crisp days of fall, it is a good time to prepare your building systems for the heating season. Scheduled and preventative maintenance can keep your building’s systems running efficiently, extend equipment life, and help to avoid unexpected downtime and costly repairs. The District Energy team has developed a list of recommendations to help keep your heating system running smoothly. These steps can be incorporated into the maintenance program for your building. For personnel safety and to protect equipment, maintenance tasks should be performed by qualified and trained individuals. Preventative Maintenance Check List – Fall.

Join Us at the Operating Engineers Seminar

Please save the date for our Operating Engineers Seminar on Tuesday, October 18, 2016, from 11:30 AM – 1 PM. This annual event is an opportunity for engineers that work in customer buildings to connect with our experts to better understand aspects of running and optimizing their system. Join us to ask your questions and to learn how to get the most out of your District Energy connection. Additional event details will be coming soon. RSVP to Lisa Eng-Sarne at lisa.eng-sarne@ever-greenenergy.com

Ron Anderson Moves into Plant Superintendent Role

Anderson-Lujan

Ron Anderson & Pete Lujan

Pete Lujan and Ron Anderson both joined the District Energy team in 1983, with start dates just months apart. They have been working together since the steam-to-hot water transition and before the cooling system or St. Paul Cogeneration were built. This month when Lujan retires, Anderson will take over his responsibilities in the role of Plant Superintendent.

Through their years of service, District Energy customers have benefited from the dedicated service of Lujan and Anderson. Their intricate knowledge of our equipment and operations helps to keep the system reliable.

Anderson joined District Energy as a general helper doing various jobs in the plant from assisting on maintenance projects to handling fuel. Most recently Anderson has served as one of the Lead Engineers, responsible for one of the control room crews that keeps a constant eye on heating, cooling, and cogeneration operations every hour of the day. In his new role, he is looking forward to the opportunity to work at a new level within the organization, coordinating across departments, and being more involved in the decision-making that ensures the continuation of safe and reliable service to District Energy customers. He said, “The services that we provide are top-notch. I am proud of being a part of that. District Energy is an integral staple of the city and not just a great place to work.”

Lujan started at District Energy in the role of Lead Engineer, and he was promoted to his current position in 1993. He has been a part of the growth of the business and the expanded service offerings to our customers. He is most proud of the fact that all along the way we have maintained a high reliability of services. Lujan said, “Our greatest value is that we offer worry-free services. Our customers can come into work in the morning and their heating and cooling is working. They can worry about other things.” As Lujan looks toward retirement, he is looking forward to transitioning from Minnesota winters to winters in Florida.

Sun Spot

Sun SpotSun Spot is a new art installation that brings together the river, solar energy, and the proposed River Balcony. Sun Spot is a 15 foot long bench in the shape of an aerial view of the Mississippi flowing through Saint Paul. The bench is connected to a meter that collects solar activity data throughout the day. Each night Sun Spot will be illuminated by the solar activity collected through that day. The bench will be lit up from dusk until dawn, showing the solar energy collected through the panels roughly twelve hours beforehand. Sun Spot will provide visitors a unique river overlook between District Energy Saint Paul and the Science Museum of Minnesota, in the heart of the Saint Paul EcoDistrict.

Sun Spot is a project led by Alyssa Baguss and Aaron Dysart that debuted at the River Balcony Prototyping Festival on Saturday, September 10. The bench will remain on display through November 10. Come visit Sun Spot at night or during the day, however, the light show begins after dusk.

Right Track Intern at District Energy

Anderson-Vang

Paige Anderson & Sabrina Vang

This summer our organization had the pleasure of hosting a Right Track intern, Sabrina Vang. Right Track is a Saint Paul program that brings together the business community and the public schools to connect motivated students to work-readiness training and paid professional internships.

This summer, Vang’s work at District Energy covered a wide variety of projects from research for the Saint Paul EcoDistrict to helping our office manager audit office equipment. Vang also participated in several informational interviews with professionals in the energy sector. Every week, Vang attended training with Right Track where she learned communications, public speaking skills, basic Excel skills, how to use Word documents, and more. From Vang’s perspective, this internship helped her gain confidence and understand how to better work in a professional workplace.

Going into her junior year at the Washington Technology Magnet School in Saint Paul, Vang has demonstrated that she is a motivated student. The week prior to her internship, Vang attended Michigan Tech’s Women in Engineering summer camp. At this camp she was able to learn about different fields of engineering and partake in projects that gave her a feel for each field.

Along with her internship at District Energy, Vang works part-time at the Science Museum of Minnesota’s Kitty Anderson Youth Science Center. Her most recent project has been developing a mobile app for Frogtown Farm. Before working at the Kitty Anderson, Vang participated in their after school program “Design Team.” In this program students do mini, hands-on projects that teach the fundamentals of STEAM-science, technology, engineering, arts, and math.

Vang’s interest in science is fueled by her love of the outdoors. When asked where her interests might lead her, Vang said, “I would really love to study hydrology, because I believe that everyone in the world should have access to fresh water, and because there are some areas on earth that don’t have access to fresh water. I would like to help them.”

This summer, when Vang was not working one of her two jobs or attending engineering camp, she spent her time watching Korean television dramas, hanging out with her friends, and, of course, playing Pokémon Go.

Vang joined a second intern working with our organization this year. Paige Anderson worked as the Student and Community Engagement to help engage college students in the International District Energy Association annual conference hosted in Saint Paul this summer. Anderson will remain with the company through the reminder of the school year working with the public relations team and helping to build additional education networks for students and our business.

District Energy Gives Back

Each year District Energy makes an effort to support our customers, our community, and the environment by supporting incredible local organizations and initiatives. As a non-profit, our resources may not be extensive, but we do what we can to help these organizations contribute to a better Saint Paul and a better region. This year through our community giving program we are proud to offer support to United Hospital, Regions Hospital, Friends of Saint Paul Library, Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy, Great River Greening, Visit Saint Paul, Saint Paul Riverfront Corporation, Saint Paul College, BlueGreen Alliance, Landmark Center, University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment, Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce, Northland Cup Charity Hockey Event, Catholic Charities Dorothy Day Center, Environmental Initiative, Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, and the Saint Paul River Balcony Prototyping Festival, as a proud sponsor of Sun Spot. Thanks to each of these organizations for providing an important service to our community, we are grateful for all that you do to support the people and vibrancy of Saint Paul and beyond.

The Wave – June 2016

President’s Letter

Ken Smith

Ken Smith

Last week, the world came to Saint Paul to talk about energy. The International District Energy Association (IDEA) annual conference arrived on our doorstep on June 20th and provided four days of exciting education and dialogue, innovation sharing, and opportunities to showcase our city, our system, and our region. Like district energy, the association has been around for over 100 years to help cities, campuses, communities, and businesses to develop solutions, best practices, and connections that help advance energy systems. This past week, I think we exemplified our industry’s capabilities and our great potential by engaging more people in the energy conversation.

To kick things off, Mayor Chris Coleman received a United Nations recognition for the City of Saint Paul as one of three Champion Cities in the United States. This distinction honors urban areas committed to developing and sharing district energy policies with other cities and working cooperatively toward a cleaner, more resilient future. In total, the United Nations has named 45 Champion Cities around the globe. We are so proud of our longstanding partnership with the City of Saint Paul, which has helped earn this great recognition. We will continue to work together toward resilience and environmental progress for our community.

The rest of the week was a whirlwind of amazing presentations, forums on developing future industry talent, dinners at our fantastic local restaurants, and tours of our solar installation and central plant, as well as facilities in Minneapolis and the University of Minnesota Campus. It was tremendous to share what we have learned about technology integration, customer service, utility business management, and our education and engagement programming with our industry peers. Folks were even asking if they could come back to Saint Paul every year! It is an impressive compliment to have this audience see the value in connecting with the experts and leaders in our region.

Rydaker-&-Thornton-Life-Member-Award-NLDuring the conference, our former President and CEO, Anders Rydaker, was presented with the Life Member recognition. Anders has done so much for our system, our industry, and the community. We are grateful for his momentous contributions and to be continuing the legacy he has established.

In my time with this company, I have had many proud moments, but hosting this event will certainly rank near the top. I am so proud of our team for helping the incredible IDEA team to host over 800 attendees and representatives from 19 countries and 246 different cities. As our customers and our partners, I am grateful for all of your efforts to help us with this internationally significant event and supporting the growing importance of smart and efficient energy systems.

Saint Paul Presented with Champion City Recognition

Mayor-Coleman---Thornton-&-Riahi-UNEP-recognition-NLThe United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) recognized the City of Saint Paul as a “Champion City,” a distinction honoring urban areas committed to developing and sharing district energy policies with other cities and working cooperatively toward a cleaner, more resilient future. Mayor Chris Coleman accepted the award on behalf of the city, as part of the official opening of the 107th Annual International District Energy Association (IDEA) Conference and Trade Show hosted by District Energy St. Paul. The mayor was praised for his long-time commitment to the city’s sustainability and district energy policies.

“Local leadership and support from city government is critically important to accelerating deployment of district energy as a sustainable, low-carbon energy solution,” said Robert Thornton, president and CEO of IDEA. “We want to commend the City of Saint Paul for understanding the vision and potential of district energy and for being a true partner in enabling this world-class asset to fully realize its potential.”

“The City of Saint Paul is proud to receive this recognition from the United Nations and join these other distinguished cities in promoting solutions for sustainability and planning for our changing climate,” Mayor Coleman said. “We are fortunate to have great partners in our community, including District Energy St. Paul, who have helped the city advance its environmental achievements and set more ambitious goals for our next generation of smart energy infrastructure, energy efficiency, and renewable energy.”

In addition to hosting this year’s conference, the Twin Cities region is home to dozens of district energy systems serving cities, communities, and campuses. As a UNEP Champion City, Saint Paul joins a network of more than 45 global Partner Cities, such as Copenhagen, Denmark; Helsinki, Finland; and Dubai, United Arab Emirates, sharing insights and experiences with other communities around the world to accelerate the deployment of district energy in metropolitan areas. Learn more about the program.

District Energy St. Paul Earns Bronze and Silver Awards for System Growth and Retention

Annually since 1990, the International District Energy Association (IDEA) has polled its member district energy systems to report the number of buildings and their area in square feet that have been committed or connected to district energy service during the previous calendar year. In recognition of service growth and retention, the top three organizations in each category are recognized during the annual conference.  For 2015, District Energy St. Paul earned a Silver Space Award for number of buildings committed in the North America category. We were also honored to earn the Bronze Space Award for total building area committed in the North America category. Beyond the award recognition, District Energy is pleased to see new customers joining our heating and cooling systems, and that our customers continue to choose us as their preferred service provider. We will continue working hard to build our value proposition to our customers and earn new business and customer loyalty.

Sharing What We Have Learned

Phil-Bourne-presents-IDEADistrict Energy St. Paul prides itself as a dynamic organization that is constantly looking for ways to learn, grow, and improve. We have worked hard to keep our Saint Paul system as an international model, and we are proud that our facilities and our team members can share their learnings with others in the industry and our community. During this year’s IDEA conference, our team shared our experience with technology integration, business development, utility and operation optimization, and community engagement through presentations and facility tours. It was particularly exciting to host over 200 people in our plant and over 50 people on the roof of the Saint Paul RiverCentre to learn about our large-scale solar thermal installation. We had an engaged audience, and we hope we helped other systems realize their technology integration potential. Visit our photo gallery to see great images from our tours, captured by local photographer, Mike Krivit.

Conference presentations were given by Michael Ahern, Nina Axelson, Phil Bourne, Ken Smith, Ray Watts, and Cathy Hart.

Inviting the Community to the Conversation

Really-Big-Table-conversations-NLDistrict Energy takes pride in being a community-based organization, which means inviting the community into the work we do and how we plan for our energy future. Hosting the IDEA Annual Conference provided us with a unique opportunity to create a community event to share emerging energy trends, showcasing Minnesota and international perspectives. Our team facilitated a dynamic and informative speaker session, sharing a broad range of perspectives on our current and future energy systems, with the intention of opening up new conversations and connections between industry professionals, citizens, educators, students, government representatives, and business leaders. The speakers included Commissioner Shawntera Hardy (Minnesota Department of Economic Development), Ken Smith (Ever-Green Energy), Jakob Bjerregaard (Danish Embassy), Werner R. Lutsch (The Energy Efficiency Association – Germany), and Dr. Massoud Amin (University of Minnesota). It was a riveting session that we hope sparked new ideas for working together to advance our energy systems and bring more people into the discussion.

We were also thrilled to host an engagement reception to connect higher education students, teachers, local leaders, experts, and conference attendees. We featured unique art and science engagement activities, including the new Water Bar and the Really Big Table (to share really big ideas), a project connected through the Springboard for the Arts Ready Go program. It was a tremendous evening with new experiences, new connections, and we hope it opened up the potential for future community energy conversations.

Connecting Customers

Customer-Appreciation-2016Connecting with our customers is an essential part of improving our business. We try to connect with customers throughout the year to better understand how to better serve their needs and help them optimize their interconnection with District Energy. We are grateful for our many partners and the incredible loyalty of our customer base, and we host a special event each year to show our gratitude. At this year’s customer appreciation day we hosted more than 50 customers at our new office in the historic Jemne building on St. Peter Street and Kellogg Boulevard. Our new building showcases how older or redesigned buildings can be retrofitted with technology that efficiently connects to our heating and cooling system, including a unique pre-assembled mechanical skid. During the event, customers had the opportunity to see the new mechanical system and tour our new office space. In addition to this event being a great opportunity for our team to connect with customers, it was also a great chance for customers to connect with each other. Thanks to those of you that were able to attend the event. As always, we encourage you to contact our team if you have any questions about your services and how we can serve you better.

Connecting with the Saints

Game-of-Catch-2016Just days before the Saints kicked off their second season at CHS Field in Lowertown, we were happy to sponsor the World’s Largest Game of Catch in collaboration with Saint Paul’s leading experts on fun. In addition to playing ball and meeting players, our team had a great time meeting people who live and work in buildings we serve. Community events like this offer us a great opportunity to meet more District Energy customers and talk to them about how to efficiently and effectively use our system. The Saints have also created a great opportunity for us to connect with Saint Paul’s next generation of leaders, local students. This year we sponsored the Education Day activities, including a parade to CHS Field. We were also thrilled to work with the Saints to create a short science and energy education film to help students better understand where some of their energy comes from. The Saints have been a tremendous partner in helping us promote our energy education initiatives and bringing so much vitality to downtown.

The Wave – April 2016

President’ Letter

Ken Smith

Ken Smith

The world is coming to Saint Paul to talk about energy. Now is the perfect time for this conversation as global energy systems are undergoing historic changes. During June 20-23, 2016, the International District Energy Association’s annual conference and trade show will be in town, and District Energy St. Paul is thrilled to be hosting this important event, with 1000 people expected from across the United States and over two dozen countries. This is an incredible opportunity to showcase our energy system and the region to our peers, other cities and campuses, and over 100 vendors providing services to this growing industry.

We worked closely with our partners at Visit Saint Paul to attract this large conference, and our city was selected because of our outstanding achievements in community energy, and the innovative work happening in the local energy sector. The Twin Cities region is home to dozens of district energy systems serving urban centers, campuses, health care, and private developments. Our region is providing leadership in the crucial areas of energy, infrastructure development, and the environment, with the intent of creating a more efficient, more cost-effective, and more sustainable energy system.

This year’s conference theme is Embracing Change. During the event, we will join local, national, and international leaders to outline the next big ideas to advance the energy future for communities and campuses. We see this conference as a timely opportunity to address important topics such as improving energy system resilience and efficiency, and reducing carbon emissions. District Energy St. Paul has worked for decades to address these topics and demonstrate solutions within our system. Our local facilities will serve as a feature tour for the conference goers, giving us the opportunity to share what we have learned in the advancement of our system and our plans for the future.

As we prepare to welcome the conference attendees to Saint Paul, we hope that our customers and local partners will help us to roll out the red carpet for this important event. Saint Paul and the region have so much to offer between the great restaurants, beautiful architecture, natural resources, and recreation. We can’t wait to share our story with the rest of the world.

Custom House is connected

Custom House

Photo by McGhiever CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Happy move-in week for Custom House tenants. We are pleased to welcome Custom House and their tenants to our local energy system that connects most of downtown Saint Paul. The Custom House is an exciting large-scale renovation project of the former US Post Office and Custom House building. The 1930s vintage, art deco building has been transformed into apartments, a hotel, and self-storage. The renovation highlights many of the building’s historic features which were restored during construction, including the beautiful lobby space that will create a grand entrance for residents and hotel guests. Custom House offers stunning views of the Mississippi River and Saint Paul as well as first-class amenities.

This is the first project in downtown Saint Paul for the Exeter Group. According to Herb Tousely, Chief Development Manager, the group was attracted to the Custom House site because the building offered stunning art deco features and unparalleled views of the Mississippi River and the city. Additionally, the floor plans in the main tower were ideal for housing and hotel conversions. Herb noted that, “There is a lot of positive momentum in downtown, and we have really enjoyed being a part of the renaissance that is happening here.” Herb and his colleagues have enjoyed watching the progress of this project. Herb shared, “The finished product has exceeded our expectations. It has been rewarding to see the reactions of the new residents that are moving into the building.”

District Energy is happy to contribute to this exciting project, providing Custom House with heating, cooling, and snow melt services. Our team has been working closely with Exeter to connect the building to the system and accommodate their needs throughout construction. Herb said, “We have really enjoyed working with District Energy. There are many benefits that come with using their services including 24/7/365 heating and cooling, which helps to eliminate heating and cooling issues in the shoulder seasons. By connecting to District Energy we avoided the need for the large unsightly HVAC plants, required by a more traditional cooling system, cluttering up our rooftop.”

At Custom House, the housing construction will continue through June. Self-storage services that will be located in a portion of the building that originally served as the Postal Service Annex will open in June. The Hyatt Place Hotel is targeted to open in September. The group is working to identify a restaurant that will occupy a portion of the first floor. The Custom House residents, guests, and amenities will be a wonderful component of the Saint Paul River Balcony project, including this September’s Prototyping Festival.

Congratulations to everyone involved in this immense project. We look forward to continued collaboration with the Exeter Group and service to this amazing building. Welcome to the neighborhood.

Customer Appreciation Day – May 24, 2016

District Energy is looking forward to our annual opportunity to celebrate and thank our customers, scheduled for May 24th this year. Customer Appreciation Day will take place in our new offices in the historic Jemne building on St. Peter Street. We will be offering tours of the building to give people a glimpse inside the building’s renovations, HVAC and mechanical upgrades, and to learn more about the history and architecture. Lunch will be served (RSVP is requested). Please contact lisa.eng-sarne@ever-greenenergy.com or 651-925-8129 for questions or to RSVP.

District Energy demand and energy charges

District Energy heating and cooling service rates are comprised of two primary charges: the demand charge and the energy charge. Demand charges are primarily associated with the system costs for infrastructure, operations, and maintenance. The energy charge is a pass-through of the system energy costs based on our cost to secure fuels and electricity to produce hot and chilled water and does not include a markup. The energy charge varies by a customer’s usage.

District Energy utilizes a variety of fuels, which allows for increased reliability and the flexibility to avoid market fluctuations to keep costs stable. The energy charge is projected by District Energy and shared with customers at the beginning of each fiscal year. Throughout the year, the energy charge may be appropriately adjusted through the fuel adjustment charge to cover cost increases or decreases against the actual cost of the energy purchased.

District Energy customers have seen their hot water service invoices reduced recently, due to decreased energy costs. The March hot water energy charge totaled $20.00 per megawatt-hour (MWh) based on an energy rate of $25.59 per MWh and -$5.59 per MWh for the fuel adjustment. The March chilled water energy charge of $0.087 per ton-hour is based on an energy rate of $0.087 per ton-hour and no fuel adjustment charge. Fuel adjustment charges will change periodically based on changes in energy input costs.

We are glad to be able to pass this savings along to our customers. We are committed to providing our customers the most cost-competitive, reliable, and local energy option.

Welcome Nick Moody

Nick MoodyIn March, Nick Moody joined the District Energy operations team as Director of Production. Nick brings a wealth of knowledge in energy operations and equipment troubleshooting and optimization that he gained as a turbine-generator system engineer at the Xcel Energy at Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant and his service as a nuclear submarine officer for the United States Navy.

Nick is looking forward to contributing to the long tradition of providing Saint Paul customers with reliable service. He is also looking forward to applying his technical expertise to find opportunities to increase efficiency while maintaining reliability and reducing system costs. Nick said, “I feel like we have a great team at District Energy. Everybody is highly skilled and works hard to make this plant operate well. I look forward to being part of District Energy continuing to improve.”

Nick has a degree in physics from the University of Minnesota and a 1st Class A Boiler Engineer License.

EcoDistrict partners honored with Sustainable Saint Paul Award

sustainability awardThe partners of the Saint Paul EcoDistrict were honored on April 20 with the Sustainable Saint Paul Award in the category of sustainable partnership. The award recognizes individuals and organizations that have made a commitment to create a more sustainable Saint Paul. The EcoDistrict was made possible by the commitment of neighborhood partners including the Science Museum of Minnesota, Saint Paul RiverCentre and Xcel Energy Center, the City of Saint Paul, Visit Saint Paul, District Energy, Saint Paul Public Library, and Xcel Energy.

The partners’ commitment to sustainability has attracted students, local residents, and visitors from other cities to learn from the environmental innovations and sustainable practices within this four block, walkable area of downtown. From renewable energy to waste reduction, the practices within the EcoDistrict are demonstrated with the intention of encouraging other businesses and communities to explore and incorporate sustainability. Through a partnership with Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy, the EcoDistrict partners are finalizing a field trip curriculum to extend the reach, influence, and access to these technologies and applications.

While most people will experience the EcoDistrict through self-guided tours, the partners have hosted guided tours for several groups including the Solar America Cities partners, NOAA, the International Energy Agency, Central High School, and other local schools. Last week partners hosted a group of individuals from Nashville, TN, that are working on issues and opportunities around transit and development in their city. In early May, the partners will be hosting a tour of attendees for the USGBC Minnesota’s IMACT Conference.

Congratulations to all of the award winners that are doing great work in our city, including our customers CHS Field, Regions Hospital, and Landmark Center.

Earth Day clean up with Conservation Corps

Earth Day clean up

Jeff Volovsek, Customer Services Manager

One day before Earth Day 2016, our team members joined Conservation Corps Minnesota for Hands Across the River. On a very soggy spring day we enjoyed connecting with our neighbors while brightening up our corner of downtown Saint Paul along the Mississippi River and the site of the future River Balcony. Visit Conservation Corps’ website to find out how you can get more involved in hands-on environmental stewardship and service learning opportunities in your area.

 

 

 

“Building community energy in St. Paul”

“Building community energy in St. Paul,” by Nina Axelson, District Energy magazine, second quarter 2016

Focused on innovation and partnerships, this historic downtown system has become an industry role model.

District-Energy-magazine-cover-Q2

Plume Project Coloring Contest Call for Art Submissions

¬For immediate release

CONTACT:
Nina Axelson
District Energy St. Paul
Direct: 612-695-1288
Email: nina.axelson@districtenergy.com

Plume Project Coloring Contest Call for Art Submissions

SAINT PAUL, Minn. (January 21, 2016)- The final installation in the Plume Project series, Coloring Contest, will launch January 28 and run through February 7, nightly from 5:30-9:00 p.m.. The Plume Project is a series of three temporary art works that will transform the signature District Energy St. Paul steam plume into a canvas for projected light displays. This installation was intentionally planned to run during the Saint Paul Winter Carnival to optimize community and family engagement. This third project in the series celebrates the theme “positive energy” and includes an open call for artwork from all ages. Artwork can be submitted online and can take many forms, including drawings, photography, or video. The artwork will be curated and projected onto the District Energy St. Paul plume located at 76 Kellogg Boulevard West, next to the Science Museum in downtown Saint Paul. The deadline for submissions is January 25. Submit online at submissions.plumeprojectcoloringcontest.com.

Coloring Contest, led by Twin Cities artist Asia Ward, is the final installation in a series by the Plume Project collaborative team. The Plume Project has lit up the Saint Paul skyline over the past three months, using the District Energy St. Paul steam plume as a canvas for projected light displays. This bold idea was originated through a partnership with Public Art Saint Paul and the City Art Collaboratory, in an effort to bring together artists and scientists to explore the intersection of their work. The projects have explored the connection between individuals and energy and environment, using light, color, animation, solar data, and poetry as key programming elements. The final project will explore the theme of positive energy through diverse media and art submission from the general public.

Coloring Contest is a platform for the community to express what positive energy means to them,” Ward states. In addition to being the lead artist on this project, Ward is co-owner of Recharge Labs, a renewable energy education company. Ward shares, “Positive energy means something very specific to me, as an artist and educator in the energy field. I support learning more about our energy sources in order to understand the systems that affect our lives and the world around us. I believe that positive energy is energy that is renewable and is respectful of the environment and human health. Coloring Contest was inspired by the newspaper contests I submitted to when I was a kid. I remember having my drawing accepted, and how exciting it was to see it printed with my name in the newspaper! I want to give kids and adults that opportunity to show off what makes them happy.”

Solar System, the second installation led by artist Aaron Dysart, just finished its impressive run from December 22 through January 12. Solar System used real-time data from NASA’s Solar Dynamic Observatory satellite to connect the themes of energy, origin, and location by using the sun to dictate an ever-changing light show in the steam plume.

The first project, Rumblings, led by artist Emily Stover, ran from November 17 through December 8 and captured the attention of thousands of people admiring the dynamic display in the Saint Paul skyline, in addition to the very personal experience provided by those calling a number to trigger a light show synced to the cadence of the poetry. All poems were created by local artists for this project.

The Plume Project is made possible through many partners, including Kyle Waites, Max Haugland, Seth Alt, and Michael Murnane, and the operations staff at District Energy St. Paul, who provided technical expertise and resources for the project. The Plume Project is funded through a grant from the Knight Foundation’s Knight Arts Challenge and matching funds from District Energy St. Paul, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Saint Paul Riverfront Corporation, and Saint Paul College, along with contributions through an Indiegogo crowdsourcing campaign. Coloring Contest is sponsored by Ever-Green Energy, an avid supporter of energy education and community engagement.

District Energy St. Paul leaders hope this project will continue to inspire collaboration between artists and scientists. They say participation in this project has helped District Energy bolster its education and outreach program and motivate the energy industry to think differently about engagement.

“The Plume Project has allowed our partnership to extend energy education and community engagement into a previously unexplored direction,” says Nina Axelson, Vice President of Public Affairs for District Energy St. Paul. “The collaboration with these amazing artists has helped us reach new audiences and draw people into important conversations about the role of energy in our communities. We are beyond grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this groundbreaking project.”

More information about the projects can be found at plumeproject.com, Vimeo, or districtenergyplume.com.

About the Plume Project Artists

For many years the artists of the Plume Project have been living and working in downtown Saint Paul, routinely wonder-struck at the majestic cloud coming from the District Energy St. Paul facility. Upon taking a tour, they were further intrigued when they learned that the plant generates local energy primarily from renewable and efficient energy sources, and that it is recognized as a world-class facility. Inspired by this overlooked, yet essential part of Saint Paul’s energy infrastructure, the Plume Project artists developed the idea to use light and projection to animate the steam plume, creating an artful spectacle that will spread their plume-love to the hearts of many. Learn more at www.plumeproject.com/team.

About District Energy St. Paul

District Energy St. Paul is a unique utility that generates heating, cooling, and electricity for the community. Pipes run from the plant on Kellogg Boulevard to hundreds of buildings in downtown Saint Paul, providing heating and cooling. A portion of the heat provided comes from steam that is leftover from electricity production, which utilizes local waste wood as its main fuel. This process is called combined heat and power, which is twice as efficient as standard energy production and connects District Energy customers with heat from renewable energy. The water vapor that is left over after creating electricity and heat is vented through the cooling towers, which serves as the canvas for the Plume Project. District Energy St. Paul is also a founding partner of the Saint Paul EcoDistrict, which is a platform for sustainability education experiences. More about District Energy St. Paul and its work with the Plume Project is available at www.districtenergyplume.com.

##

Plume Project Launches 2nd Installation – Solar Systems

¬For immediate release

CONTACT:
Nina Axelson
District Energy St. Paul
Direct: 612-695-1288
Email: nina.axelson@districtenergy.com

Plume Project Launches 2nd Installation – Solar Systems

Saint Paul, MN (December 22, 2015) This year’s winter solstice marks the opening night of Solar Systems the second installation in the Plume Project installation. The Plume Project is a series of three temporary art works that will transform the signature District Energy St. Paul steam plume into a canvas for projected light displays.

The solar-inspired project by local artist Aaron Dysart seeks to connect the themes of energy, origin, and location by using the sun to dictate an ever-changing light show in the steam plume. The project is using real-time data from NASA’s Solar Dynamic Observatory satellite. This data will convey specific locations along the equator of the sun that will dictate the color and brightness of a corresponding light in the center of the plume.

“When I first learned about this plant over 15 years ago, I was first captivated by the use of biomass to generate energy for St. Paul,” Dysart states. “What stuck with me over the years was the subtle power of location. Even though energy is central to modern life, its creation is usually hidden in someone else’s backyard. But this plant returns to the center, creating sustainable energy in the middle of downtown.”

Solar System’s ever-changing spectacle will connect the universal to the local to create a colorful crown for Saint Paul. Dysart states, “All energy starts with the sun and like most things that are central to life, we often overlook their importance and ignore their beauty.” Dysart’s project runs through January 12 and can be seen from 4:30 PM to 10:00 PM Sunday through Thursday and 4:30 to 11:00 PM on Fridays and Saturdays.

Starting this week, Plume fans will also have the chance to see their own creativity displayed within the plume. The third Plume project, the Plume Coloring Contest, led by Asia Ward, has an open call to submit visual content based on the topic of positive energy. Selected images will be curated and projected onto the steam plume. This project runs concurrent with the Saint Paul Winter Carnival, between January 28 and February 7. The submission website provides more information about the process and contributors can upload content for consideration – plumeprojectcoloringcontest.com.

The first project, Rumblings, ran from November 17 through December 8 and captured the attention of thousands of people admiring the dynamic display in the Saint Paul skyline. Emily Stover was the creative force behind Rumblings and is the third member of the Plume Project team.

The Plume Project was initiated through a partnership and exploration between District Energy St. Paul and a joint venture between Public Art Saint Paul and Works Progress, the City Art

Collaboratory, which included the Plume Project artists. Funding was made possible through a grant from the Knight Foundation’s Knight Arts Challenge and matching funds from District Energy St. Paul, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Saint Paul Riverfront Corporation, and Saint Paul College, along with 85 individual contributions through an Indiegogo crowdsourcing campaign. The match has not been fully met and the artists are still seeking additional sponsors.

District Energy St. Paul became involved in this work as part of its long-standing education and outreach program, which has historically supported tours, classroom education, and science and climate curriculum development. District Energy is also one of the founding partners of the Saint Paul EcoDistrict, a sustainability learning adventure in the heart of downtown Saint Paul.

“The Plume Project has provided an unparalleled opportunity to reach audiences that don’t traditionally think about where their energy comes from or their relationship to the energy system, shared Nina Axelson, Vice President of Public Relations for District Energy St. Paul. “Through this exciting collaboration of light, animation, art, and science, this project has helped generate curiosity and discussions that we hope will eventually lead to a better, more sustainable energy future”

More information about the projects can be found at plumeproject.com or districtenergyplume.com.

About the Plume Project Artists

For many years the artists of the Plume Project have been living and working in downtown Saint Paul, routinely wonder-struck at the majestic cloud coming from the District Energy St. Paul facility. Upon taking a tour, they were further intrigued when they learned that the plant generates local energy primarily from renewable and efficient energy sources, and that it is recognized as a world-class facility. Inspired by this overlooked, yet essential part of Saint Paul’s energy infrastructure, the Plume Project artists developed the idea to use light and projection to animate the steam plume, creating an artful spectacle that will spread their plume-love to the hearts of Saint Paul residents. Learn more at www.plumeproject.com/team.

About District Energy St. Paul

District Energy St. Paul is a unique utility that generates heating, cooling, and electricity for the community. Pipes run from the plant on Kellogg Boulevard to hundreds of buildings in downtown Saint Paul, providing heating and cooling. A portion of the heat provided comes from steam that is leftover from electricity production, which utilizes local waste wood as its main fuel. This process is called combined heat and power, which is twice as efficient as standard energy production and connects District Energy customers with heat from renewable energy. The water vapor that is left over after creating electricity and heat is vented through the cooling towers, which serves as the canvas for the Plume Project. District Energy Paul is also a founding partner of the Saint Paul EcoDistrict, which is a platform for sustainability education experiences. More about District Energy St. Paul and their work with the Plume Project is available at www.districtenergyplume.com.

##

The Wave – December 2015

President’s Letter

Ken Smith

Ken Smith

As 2015 comes to a close, I have begun looking back through the year, and I am thankful to see so many exciting developments for our business. Earlier this year, we purchased a historic building and this week we moved into our new offices. We completed major heating and cooling distribution maintenance and upgrade projects, with our teams working incredibly hard to ensure that our services remained reliable throughout the improvements. The combined heat and power plant had 100% availability, running continuously between maintenance outage periods, providing renewable electricity to our utility partner Xcel Energy and waste heat to our hot water grid. While we improve operations, it is equally important that we keep our rates competitive and stable. Fiscal Year 2016 marks our fifth consecutive year without a demand rate increase for heating and cooling, and Standard and Poor’s affirmed our second A- Stable rating. All of this while restructuring the heating and cooling businesses under District Energy St. Paul to help streamline our business activities and improve our efficiency. The success of the year is also measured by our customer growth. We joined one of our newest customers, CHS Field, in celebrating their first year in operation and a tremendously successful opening season in Lowertown. We worked alongside our partner Custom House as they continue their impressive renovations of the historic post office into one of the premier developments in Saint Paul, with occupancy slated for spring 2016. And we are proud to be a part of the expansion plans for the Minnesota Children’s Museum, who will join our heating network in 2016. We will also continue our service relationship with Catholic Charities as they take on the immense endeavor of building Higher Ground, providing much needed services to our community. You will hear more about our 2015 accomplishments and partnerships in our upcoming annual report, but as we spend this time of the year with coworkers, friends, family, and colleagues reflecting on our year, I wanted to take the time to say thank you to everyone who has been a part of our continued success. As a non-profit, community-based utility, we spend every day interacting with the people we serve. These interactions help us improve our services, prepare for Saint Paul’s growth and change, and work together to create innovative solutions for our city. So thank you to all of you for your partnership, your support, your input, and your business. It has been a tremendous year and I wish you all very happy holidays.

All about Heat Exchangers

In November, District Energy hosted our annual Operating Engineers Seminar at Rival House. This annual event is an opportunity for our customer service team to connect with our customers who have significant influence over how efficiently a building is run. This year the theme was focused on heat exchangers, a key component to the energy transfer from our heating and cooling services to the building’s internal HVAC system. District Energy customer service engineers Jonathan Martens, Bob Ford, and Jeff Volovsek discussed how to properly configure heat exchangers, how to diagnose issues, how to clean and maintain the equipment, and how to connect with our local team for help with any heat exchanger questions or issues.

Here are the key recommendations from the presentation, which could help your buildings run more effectively:

  • Cleaning heat exchangers can extend the life of your equipment and help keep your system running efficiently. Cleaning should be included in your scheduled preventative maintenance program. Without regular cleaning passages can become blocked and then cleaning will not be possible. For domestic hot water and process heat exchangers, it is recommended to clean them once a year. Building (or space) heat exchangers are recommended to be cleaned every five years. If your equipment is performing outside of manufacturer temperature and pressure specification, cleaning your heat exchanger may help to resolve these issues.
  • Generally heat exchanger design specifications can be found on the mechanical schedules of your building’s blueprints. If you do not have a copy of this equipment information, you can contact the equipment manufacturer for specifications.
  • Oversizing heat exchangers can cause many issues including low flow conditions, which can cause fouling of the system and lack of control authority.
  • When you are selecting equipment, adding equipment, or modifying your equipment configuration, our customer service team can help you select the right assets to meet your needs and assist you with finding the most cost effective solutions for your system.

If you were not able to join us for the training, but have any questions or concerns about your energy transfer or equipment, please contact our customer service team – Jeff Volovsek at jeff.volovsek@districtenergy.com, Jonathan Martens at jonathan.martens@districtenergy.com, or Bob Ford at bob.ford@districtenergy.com.

Plume Project Prepares for Second Installation

Plume Project

Photo by Ryan Siverson

For three amazing weeks between November 17 and December 8, visitors to Saint Paul enjoyed plume and poetry filled evenings, thanks to the tremendous creativity of Emily Stover, six local poets, and the first Plume Project, “Rumblings.” District Energy is thrilled with the engagement this created with our local community and the conversations this sparked about where our energy comes from and how we all interact with it on a daily basis. We have heard from customers and the community that they loved the first iteration of the Plume Project and are looking forward to the next two installations.

The next installment of the project begins on December 22, featuring Aaron Dysart’s “Solar Systems.” Aaron’s piece will use live data from NASA’s Solar Dynamic Observatory, which tracks the activity on the surface of the sun. This data will be translated into lighting projection, which changes the color and brightness of the lights in the plume. The lighting display will be completely unique every night of its three week run (through January 12), creating an all new experience for Plume enthusiasts. The third project, Asia Ward’s” Plume Coloring Contest,” will run concurrent with the Winter Carnival. For more information about submitting artwork for the Plume Coloring Contest or Dysart’s Solar Systems, keep up with us at districtenergyplume.com or follow us on twitter. There will be an open call for artwork for Asia’s project starting on December 20.

Nick Nelson from the City of Saint Paul made a fantastic video explaining each project.


EcoDistrict Partners Engage Climate Generation for Education Expertise

Climate-Gen-tourDistrict Energy has joined its local partners to work with Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy to bolster the education content and materials for the Saint Paul EcoDistrict. Our goal is to make the EcoDistrict a hub for learning about sustainability and energy. Whether visitors are walking the EcoDistrict tour, visiting online, or working in a classroom, we want to provide students and educators with a deeper understanding of how sustainability relates to their lives and their community by providing accurate, science-based information. Climate Generation has been recognized for advancing climate literacy through their development of science-based interdisciplinary educational resources for students, educators, and the public. They will be a great partner to help us evaluate and improve the EcoDistrict field trip experience and develop effective curriculum based on educational standards. The first phase of collaboration was kicked off in late October and will focus on improving the walking tour experience and field trip opportunities, as well as enhancing website content.

The EcoDistrict partners include the City of Saint Paul, District Energy St. Paul, the Science Museum of Minnesota, Saint Paul RiverCentre and Xcel Energy Center, Visit Saint Paul, Xcel Energy, and George Latimer Central Library.  Learn more about the amazing EcoDistrict initiatives at saintpaulecodistrict.com.

Minnesota Children’s Museum Signs Up for District Heating

This fall, District Energy finalized plans to add the Minnesota Children’s Museum to our strong network of heating customers. The Children’s Museum has been a cooling customer for over 20 years and will begin taking heating services next fall during the last phase of their exciting new expansion project. Attendance for the Children’s Museum has grown nearly 50 percent since they moved to downtown Saint Paul in 1995. Through their expansion and renovation project, the museum is increasing visitor space by 35%, reimagining 100% of the space and exhibits, and creating new experiences where children and adults can play. The renovated museum will feature a café with seating area, new entrance at skyway level, a new reception area for groups, more bathrooms, and an additional elevator. Construction began this past October and the museum will remain open during most of the construction. They are planning to close in fall 2016 and re-open early 2017. District Energy will continue providing cooling services throughout this construction timeline and will begin providing construction heat next fall, followed by full heating services when the museum re-opens. The Children’s Museum provides an invaluable service to children and families in Minnesota and we are very excited to see their tremendous improvements, and to provide their team and their guests with reliable heating services.

Cooling Tower Reconstruction

cooling towersA construction crew is working to rebuild our cooling towers, nine-stories up on the Hans O. Nyman Energy Center on Kellogg Boulevard. The towers being replaced were completed in 1993 and original to the first chilled water service provided by District Energy. The old towers were coming to the end of their useful life, and we decided that it would be better to invest in new towers than to pay for imminent repairs. Our current best practices and 22 years of cooling experience impacted the features of the new towers, which were designed to accommodate our overnight thermal tank charging and facilitate winter operations. In addition to optimal design and increased efficiency, the tower’s new features include fiberglass structure and decking instead of wood, higher quality components, and better features like a stainless steel basin, variable frequency drives on all the fans, and expanded monitoring and controls capabilities.

We’ve Moved!

moving dayEarlier this year, District Energy St. Paul purchased the historic Jemne Building just down the road from our primary plant operations in the Nyman Center on Kellogg Boulevard. We will still have a presence in the Nyman Center, including our colleagues working on distribution, energy production, project engineering, and environmental, health, and safety. As of December 14, our customer service, accounts receivable and billing, project development and planning, human resources and administration, information technology, and public relations teams can be found in the Jemne Building. If you need to connect with us, we can still be reached at our primary phone number – 651.297.8955 or through info@districtenergy.com.

The Jemne Building offers us new opportunities to showcase best-in-class energy solutions to optimize our district heating and cooling connections. We are working with our partner LHB to monitor and continuously improve building operations through the B3 Sustainable Building 2030 (SB 2030) Energy Standard. The building will also feature two electric vehicle charging stations, low-flow water fixtures, and a new recycling, composting, and procurement program. We hope our efforts will inspire our customers and neighbors to explore similar sustainability initiatives and demonstrate how sustainability can be achieved in a historic building.

We still have a lot of work to do to settle into our new home office, but we look forward to sharing the space with our customers and colleagues very soon. Please update your address book with our new information, 305 St. Peter Street, Saint Paul, MN 55102. Read more about our purchase of the historic building.

 

Plume Project Lights the Saint Paul Skyline

¬For immediate release

CONTACT:
Nina Axelson
District Energy St. Paul
Direct: 612-695-1288
Email: nina.axelson@districtenergy.com

Plume Project Lights the Saint Paul Skyline

Plume Project

Photo by Ryan Siverson

Saint Paul, MN (November 16, 2015) On Tuesday evening, three local artists will launch the Plume Project, a series of three temporary art works that will transform the signature District Energy St. Paul steam plume into a canvas for projected light displays. Each art work was designed by an individual artist as a member of the Plume Project team, using projection lighting, coloring, and animation to create an art and science project unlike any other in the world.

Emily Stover designed the first project in the series, Rumblings, which combines networked theatrical lighting and poetry to animate the District Energy steam plume, and to allow city dwellers to build a deeper relationship with their energy sources. Six local poets were commissioned to create a short original work that the public hears when they call the Rumblings phone number (651-383-1378), which triggers a plume light show. Rumblings is designed as a personal experience, so one caller at a time can hear a poem. Callers in queue and others viewing the plume will still see the light show. The poets include Jevin Boardman, Christina Collins, Dessa Darling, Ifrah Mansour, GE Patterson, and Matt Rasmussen. The work features music from Father You See Queen. This project runs until December 8.

“When I first visited District Energy, I could sense all of these complex layers of meaning underneath the mechanical systems, and I became curious about what a trained poet could uncover,” says Stover about the origin of the project. “I want Rumblings to be a platform for poetry and to create an emotional response with the people who experience it from the street. We are able to live together in cities partly because of all the complex systems that are operating just under the surface.”

The second project, Solar System, designed by Aaron Dysart, launches December 22, aligned with the start of the winter solstice. Solar System will use data from NASA’s Solar Dynamic Observatory to present an ever changing light show in the plume. As sun spots and storms ebb and flow on the surface of the power plant in the center of our solar system, corresponding color-changing flood lights will shift and dim on the steam plume. This project runs until January 12.

The third project, the Plume Coloring Contest, led by Asia Ward, is an open call to submit visual content based on the topic of positive energy. Selected images will be curated and projected onto the steam plume for the whole city to enjoy. This project runs concurrent with the Saint Paul Winter Carnival, between January 28 and February 7. A call for entries will be announced in early December.

The Plume Project was initiated through a partnership and exploration between District Energy St. Paul and a joint venture between Public Art Saint Paul and Works Progress, the City Art Collaboratory, which included the Plume Project artists. Funding was made possible through a grant from the Knight Foundation’s Knight Arts Challenge and matching funds from District Energy St. Paul, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Saint Paul Riverfront Corporation, and Saint Paul College, along with 85 individual contributions through an Indiegogo crowdsourcing campaign. The match has not been fully met and the artists are still seeking additional sponsors.

District Energy St. Paul became involved in this work as part of its long-standing education and outreach program, which has historically supported tours, classroom education, and science and climate curriculum development. District Energy is also one of the founding partners of the Saint Paul EcoDistrict, a sustainability learning adventure in the heart of downtown Saint Paul.

“Our community energy model has been a great resource for energy education, helping people better understand the role of energy in their daily lives and how we can influence the next generation of energy ideas. We pursued this partnership to explore how artistic interpretation of what we do could increase the curiosity about energy in our community. The resulting project and partnership has exceeded our greatest expectations. We hope it gets people talking about energy, science, and art around the dinner table, as well as creating an incredible aesthetic and thought-provoking experience,” says Ken Smith, President and CEO of District Energy St. Paul.

The projects will run from 5:00-10:00 PM on weeknights and 5:00-11:00 PM on the weekends. The three series represent almost eight weeks of arts programming, with each night promising something different for audiences. More information about the projects can be found at plumeproject.com or districtenergyplume.com.

About the Plume Project Artists

For many years the artists of the Plume Project have been living and working in downtown Saint Paul, routinely wonder-struck at the majestic cloud coming from the District Energy St. Paul facility. Upon taking a tour, they were further intrigued when they learned that the plant generates local energy primarily from renewable and efficient energy sources, and that it is recognized as a world-class facility. Inspired by this overlooked, yet essential part of Saint Paul’s energy infrastructure, the Plume Project artists developed the idea to use light and projection to animate the steam plume, creating an artful spectacle that will spread their plume-love to the hearts of Saint Paul residents. Learn more at www.plumeproject.com/team.

About District Energy St. Paul

District Energy St. Paul is a unique utility that generates heating, cooling, and electricity for the community. Pipes run from the plant on Kellogg Boulevard to hundreds of buildings in downtown Saint Paul, providing heating and cooling. A portion of the heat provided comes from steam that is leftover from electricity production, which utilizes local waste wood as its main fuel. This process is called combined heat and power, which is twice as efficient as standard energy production and connects District Energy customers with heat from renewable energy. The water vapor that is left over after creating electricity and heat is vented through the cooling towers, which serves as the canvas for the Plume Project. District Energy Paul is also a founding partner of the Saint Paul EcoDistrict, which is a platform for sustainability education experiences. More about District Energy St. Paul and their work with the Plume Project is available at www.districtenergyplume.com.

##

The Wave – October 2015

President’s Letter

Ken Smith

Ken Smith

District Energy St. Paul contributes to the economic growth of Saint Paul by offering organizations a real choice in energy services. By offering affordable, cost-competitive, and reliable services, we help the city attract and retain businesses, and we help our customers to thrive in their endeavors. We have also integrated adaptable technology, which has allowed us to offer our customers customized solutions as they renovate or expand their operations. Considering our role in community growth, we are tremendously proud to be keeping heating and cooling rates steady for the fifth year in a row.

Our team is highly aware of the importance of rate stability to our customers and the community and we work diligently throughout the year to complete system improvements on time and under budget. In fact, District Energy has been able to avoid rate increases in seventeen of its thirty-three years of heating service and eleven of its twenty-four years of cooling service. Our rates have actually stayed below the rate of inflation over the history of our company. The rate stability we have been able to achieve is specific to our demand rate, the non-energy related costs which includes energy production, energy delivery, operations and maintenance, repairs, capital expenditures, general and administrative, debt service, and working capital costs. Since District Energy was established, it has been a goal to keep customer costs as low as possible while providing the highest value of services. Our sustained practice of managing costs, optimizing efficiency measures, and streamlining system processes help us to continue to reach this goal today.

We recently received our second consecutive Standard & Poor’s rating of A-Stable, which speaks to our strong financial tradition, the diversity of our customer base, and focused business practices.  We have achieved this milestone in part because we consistently offer our customers stable rates and efficient energy services. The Standard & Poor’s recognition benefits our customers since lower rates on capital mean that we can do more for the system with less expense. As a non-profit utility, all of the financial benefits are returned to our customers. As we work toward eliminating coal as a fuel source for heating and diversifying our system, we will continue to support vitality in Saint Paul and economic development by offering great services at affordable and stable prices. By helping our customers we help to strengthen and grow Saint Paul, which in turn helps our system to expand and improve its efficiency, which further benefits our customers. We look forward to continuing to grow and prosper together.

District Energy Plans Elimination of Coal for Heating System

District Energy has begun plans to end its use of coal after the 2020-21 heating season. The transition from coal reduces the heating system’s CO2 emissions by 27 percent or 21,000 tons. This is the equivalent of removing 4,400 cars from the road each year.

Our fuel transition is not mandated, but driven by our efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase system resilience, and deliver a value proposition that is in line with customer expectations. The transition is now possible because of changes in fuel and finance markets and the availability of alternative resources to help meet the critical heating needs of our customers. These plans are not projected to increase rates or reduce heating reliability.

As we work through the transition plan, we will be seeking to incorporate greater efficiencies, emerging technologies, and more renewable energy sources. We will continue to explore the best opportunities to advance the system through renewable and efficient resources, while preserving our commitment to rate stability and service reliability.

Press release

The Plume Project uses Public Art to Spur Conversation about Community Energy

Plume-testWe are only 19 days  away from the launch of the world’s first Plume Project, featuring three fascinating art installations using our steam plume as a canvas. The plume itself is the water vapor that remains after we use local biomass to generate electricity and heat through combined heat and power. This plume is fondly referred to as the cloud factory by the innovative artists who have developed this project. Last year, these artists received a grant from the Knight Foundation to develop a light projection project that will utilize this steam plume as the backdrop to help spur community conversations about energy.

There will be three unique public art installations this fall and winter. The first project kicks off on November 17, with Emily Stover who has enlisted local poets to engage citizens in an individual experience to encourage people to think about their relationship to the broader energy system. With a solstice kick off on December 22, Aaron Dysart will represent NASA Solar Dynamic Observatory data through an ever-changing light show on the plume. As spots and storms ebb and flow on the sun, color-changing flood lights inside the steam plume will shift and dim according to the data. For the third project, Asia Ward will be calling on Saint Paul residents of all ages to submit their drawings and photos on the topic of positive energy. During the Winter Carnival these drawings will be projected onto the plume engaging contributors and visitors in our positive, community energy story.

More information about the Plume Project is available at plumeproject.com, and you can follow the project’s development on Facebook and Twitter. We are excited to explore the amazing intersection of energy, art, science, community, and education through this project. If you are interested in supporting the efforts or becoming a sponsor, please contact Asia Ward 612-236-5059.

Plume Project from Asia Ward on Vimeo.

District Energy Receives S&P A- Rating

At District Energy we have focused of our operational process to manage our assets and to follow sound financial practices, because our financial strength directly impacts our customers and our system. This priority has helped us to keep our rates steady for the last five years, while continuing to make investments in system upgrades.

Our teams’ hard work paid off in 2013 when we received our first Standard & Poor’s (S&P) rating of A-/Stable. This month S&P has affirmed its long-term rating of A-/Stable for the bonds series 2013 A-E issued to District Energy St. Paul and District Cooling St. Paul. We pursued an S&P rating review as part of an organizational restructuring which merged District Cooling services under the District Energy brand.

According to S&P, the rating review reflects a series of credit strengths, including stable revenue under long-term contracts with a fairly diverse customer base, base rates that are adjusted annually to fully recover costs (including debt service) and an energy charge that can be adjusted monthly if necessary to recover changes in the cost of fuels, and well-managed assets, which are reliable and competitively priced. The A- rating is significant within the utility industry. Investment grade ratings of BBB- or above are seen as a major threshold for business stability and financial continuity.

Community Giving

Our community is fortunate to have a wealth of strong non-profits that help to make Saint Paul a great place to live, work, and visit. From providing health care and food pantries to arts and entertainment, these organizations serve individuals and families and bolster our community. District Energy is committed to supporting these organizations through our community giving program with a focus that mirrors our organizational mission to support our customers, our community, and our environment. This fall we are proud to be giving to the great endeavors of United Hospital, Regions Hospital, Friends of Saint Paul Public Library, Neighborhood House, Landmark Center, and the Plume Project, among others. We admire the work and dedication of these organizations, and we are grateful to have them as customers and collaborators.

International Visitors Tour District Energy

German-delegation-tourOn Friday, October 16, the staff at District Energy hosted two international tours considering energy best practices. First, a delegation of thirty-five individuals from Germany that included government officials, energy experts, and business leaders and was led by Johannes Remmel, Minister for Climate Protection and Environment of North Rhine-Westphalia. The delegation is part of a five-year exchange program directed by Sabine Engel (University Economic Development) between the University of Minnesota and the German government established to explore the renewable energy technologies, policies, and markets in the two countries. The group spent several days touring the region talking with energy and environmental experts, exploring renewable energy projects, and discussing potential partnerships. District Energy’s Ken Smith has been a part of the exchange delegation for four years.

The second tour group also had University of Minnesota ties and was organized by Carissa Slotterback (Humphrey School of Public Affairs). The group of individuals from around the world comprised twenty-three individuals working with the International Energy Agency on the topic of energy strategies for cities and included a range of professionals across the realms of energy planning, urban planning, and academia.

We are honored that both of these groups of experts sought out District Energy St. Paul to learn more about our how our community energy system is a key solution for Saint Paul.

BOMA Services Expo

BOMA-2015We joined other Saint Paul service providers at the annual Greater Saint Paul BOMA Expo on September 15. Our team had a great time connecting with customers. For all of our booth visitors, we shared the benefits of being connected to District Energy including our reliable delivery of heating and cooling, our stable and affordable rates, and the ease of system operation. Inspired by the theme Show your Minnesota Best, we hosted a meat raffle for some high-quality steak, pork, and bacon. Thanks to all of you who stopped by our both and congrats again to the big prize winners.

Great River Greening’s Buckthorn Blast

Great-River-GreeningOn September 17th, our team members joined Great River Greening for their annual Buckthorn Blast. Volunteers worked to haul invasive buckthorn and plant new trees along the Mississippi River in Victoria Park in Saint Paul. On one of the soggiest days of the year, employees took on the challenge with enthusiasm. It is our mission as an organization to be a part of the community and serve as environmental stewards, making Great River Greening a great volunteering partner. From its inception in 1995, Great River Greening has worked with over 10,000 volunteers to conserve Minnesota’s lakes, rivers, and natural areas, becoming Minnesota’s restoration leaders. We had a great time and hope to work on more restoration projects in the future.

 

Operating Engineers Seminar: All about Heat Exchangers

On Wednesday, November 11, District Energy will be hosting our annual Operating Engineers Seminar. The theme this year is “All about Heat Exchangers.” District Energy customer service engineers Jonathan Martens, Bob Ford, and Jeff Volovsek will discuss how to properly install heat exchangers, how to diagnose issues with them, how to clean them, and how to get help with yours. The presentation will also discuss why proper temperature sensor location is important. The event will be held at Rival House from 11:30 AM – 1:30 PM and lunch will be provided. If you are an operating engineer in a building connected to District Energy or if you know someone who would like to attend, please contact Lisa Eng-Sarne 651.925.8129 to RSVP or for additional details.

District Energy St. Paul is operated and managed by Ever-Green Energy.