The Wave – July 2018
Letter from the President
Since 2010 Saint Paul’s population has increased every year. Urban population growth is a trend that many metropolitan areas across Minnesota, the country, and the world are experiencing. As we have witnessed in Saint Paul, this trend has positive benefits like revitalized economic development and renewed social vitality. It also means additional expectations being placed on aged infrastructure planned and built for the demands of a drastically different era.
Cities around the world are working to build twenty-first century infrastructure that is responsive, resilient, and low carbon or even carbon free. For energy systems, consumers have always wanted services that are reliable and cost effect. While still top priorities, today’s consumers want more. More information about their energy use, more control over how and when they use energy, and more control over the source of their energy.
At District Energy St. Paul, meeting our customers’ expectations has always been at the forefront of our planning and continuous system advancement. We have a constant eye on improvements to better serve our customers and optimize our systems by making them smarter. Over the past four years, we have methodically modernized our metering systems while simultaneously working to collect and integrate vast amounts of data from the various control systems and equipment that are integral to our operations. This includes data from production assets, distribution piping, and metering systems in customer buildings. We are already seeing that customers are taking advantage of these investments by integrating our building-level, real-time data into their building automation systems.
These advancements are coming at an important time, as the City and our customers begin to work collectively to reduce energy and water waste by improving building performance. The City of Saint Paul is working to support building owners and operators to prioritize energy efficiency and has set a goal to be carbon neutral by 2050. Energy efficiency is key to achieving this goal. Our team is ready to support the City’s program, Energize Saint Paul, as they build their resources and tools to assist building managers in their efforts. This summer Energize Saint Paul is encouraging commercial, multi-family, and public buildings to implement energy efficiency strategies for the cooling season. Through their challenge called Race to Reduce, buildings are encouraged to track their energy data from June through August, while also engaging in training and community events. We are proud to be a partner in this work and are excited to use some of our new benchmarking and data management tools to help our customers participate and see meaningful results.
Earlier this month, I joined industry peers at the International District Energy Association annual conference in Vancouver. District Energy was recognized together with the district energy systems in Chicago and Toronto. We received two awards—recognizing the total number of customer buildings contracted in 2017 and the total square footage of buildings contracted in 2017. This recognition acknowledges our customer loyalty and community support. Of course, as we see the results of our customer survey, we appreciate the direct affirmation from our customers that we are exceeding their expectations for reliability and service. We also appreciate how your constructive feedback helps us continue to do better. Thanks to all of you for your continued engagement with us.
As we work toward advancing Saint Paul’s energy infrastructure, we will continue to collaborate with you to customize solutions that meet your needs. Together we can save energy and save money, while driving innovation and improvements.
Osborn370 Becomes Home for Tech Innovators
For most of the last 50 years, the only way to get into the skyscraper at 370 Wabasha was to have an appointment with Ecolab. Today, the former Ecolab headquarters building is teeming with high-energy innovators who are creating new companies. Now known as Osborn370, the 20-story tower is being reimagined as a home for innovators, entrepreneurs, and the services that support them.
After Ecolab moved to the former Travelers building, the Osborn370 building was purchased by a team of local investors with a vision for providing a better platform to Saint Paul’s technology economy. The idea is to populate the building with a community of entrepreneurs, business leaders, and innovators who can grow their businesses in a collaborative environment. The building offers custom designed class A office space along with an array of shared spaces, a community floor designed to encourage collaboration and group work, a redesigned lobby that will include a coffee shop, a branch of Bridgewater Bank, and casual gathering and meeting spaces.
The first company moved into Osborn370 on the day the new ownership took control in June 2017 and there has been a steady stream of new tenant announcements since then.
As evidence of the unique entrepreneurial environment growing at Osborn370, technology business accelerators are choosing to locate in the building. They include:
American Public Media’s Glen Nelson Center. The Glen Nelson Center will invest in startups aligned with APM’s mission and launch new businesses on the frontier of media and technology.
Lunar Startups. A collaboration of the Glen Nelson Center and the Knight Foundation, Lunar Startups will incubate and accelerate early-stage, high-growth startups with a strong commitment to entrepreneurs from underrepresented communities.
Techstars Farm to Fork Accelerator Program. Over the next three years, the Techstars accelerator program will bring 30 new early-stage companies to Saint Paul to accelerate their growth.
These organizations will invest and mentor dozens of growing businesses in Saint Paul in the coming years.
Also located at Osborn370 are the headquarters for SmartCare, KLJ, an engineering consulting firm, Bridgewater Bank, Paul Davis Restoration, Knight Foundation, Riverpoint Investments, Bootstrappers, and software companies Structural, OppSource, Lighthouse Software, and Reeher.
Osborn370 will also play host to tech business events. For example, more than 200 people recently took part in an event discussing racial equity in the technology sector sponsored by Twin Cities Blacks In Technology.
The building is now more than 60 percent leased. Construction recently began on the lobby renovation and the community floor, both of which are scheduled to be completed by August.
District Energy provides heating, cooling, and domestic hot water to Osborn370. Our team is pleased to continue to support innovation that is the hallmark of Ecolab’s enterprise and will continue with the companies choosing Osborn370 as their home. Ecolab joined the District Energy heating system early, signing a contract in fall of 1982 and coming online in October 1984 with 42 other customer buildings.
To learn more about Osborn370, contact Tanya Bell at Grand Real Estate Advisors Group/Westridge Properties at 651.253.5435 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Energize Saint Paul
In May, the City of Saint Paul launched a new energy and water efficiency program, Energize Saint Paul, in partnership with District Energy St. Paul, Xcel Energy, Center for Energy and the Environment, Saint Paul Port Authority, Greater Saint Paul Building Owners and Managers Association, US Green Building Council, Saint Paul Building and Construction Trades Council, and the Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce. Our team’s collaboration with this initiative will include providing resources and support to building owners and occupants to reduce waste and save money while working toward an overall goal of reducing the City’s greenhouse gas emissions. The first initiative is the Race to Reduce – a summer program to reduce energy consumption in commercial, multi-family, and public buildings. From June to August participating buildings will benchmark their energy use in an effort to increase their energy efficiency, save money on energy bills, and contribute to making Saint Paul a more resilient city. Starting with the summer program, Energize Saint Paul will provide practical tools to improve efficiency and guidance on benchmarking as well as opportunities to meet with a network of building owners, operators, and experts.
Game of Catch
It was fantastic to connect with downtown employees and residents at the World’s Largest Game of Catch while helping to kick off the St. Paul Saints’ 2018 season. District Energy has been a long-time sponsor of this event and it has been even more fun since the Saints moved to Lowertown. This is a great opportunity for our team to interact with the people who live, work, and play in our customer buildings. Our team also participated in the Saints 26 for 26 celebration at the home opener, with our own Steve Rambeck throwing out the first pitch, along with 25 other Saint Paul partners, including Mayor Carter!
Welcome Luke Davis and Kevin Scott
Luke Davis and Kevin Scott have joined the Ever-Green Energy team and will be supporting District Energy customers in Saint Paul.
Luke is a Senior Engineer and a familiar face at District Energy. He has worked as a mechanical engineer and consultant on several projects in downtown Saint Paul including the RiverCentre solar thermal installation. His father worked as a pipefitter and control fitter, and his own educational and professional background have focused heavily on mechanical work. He was an industrial tech mechanic for Honeywell at their circuit board manufacturing plant for six years while he was also working on his associate’s degree at Century College and bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at University of Minnesota. Luke has extensive experience in green energy systems, mines (both metallic and non-metallic), and plant operations (ethanol production and soy extraction). Luke is a licensed professional engineer in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Luke is excited to join the District Energy team and eager to collaborate on challenging and forward-thinking projects. He said, “District Energy and Ever-Green are always exploring new and innovative ways to increase energy system efficiency and tap new energy sources when they are practical solutions. Right out of the gate I have been assigned to several projects that I would have been extremely happy to work on in my last seven years of consulting.”
For Kevin, coming to work has to feel like déjà vu, since he worked for Wold Architects and Engineers that owned the Jemne Building before District Energy. Kevin is an Associate Engineer with a wide range of interests from thermodynamics and fluids to physics and philosophy. His work has focused on designing HVAC and plumbing systems for the public sector. Kevin received his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from North Dakota State University and recently passed his exam to become a licensed professional engineer in Minnesota.
Kevin is looking forward to working with new customers to streamline service connections and working with existing customers to optimize their operations through control strategies and design practices. Like Luke, Kevin is enjoying the variety of projects at District Energy. He said, “It is great to work on a team that values energy efficiency and green design. Engineering is about finding the best solution to solve a specific problem in a specific situation, and I am looking forward to working with our customers to help them find their best solutions.”
Load Limiting: How District Energy Meters Can Help Save You Money
Load limiting can help building operators mitigate the impact of the cooling season on their operating budgets while reducing their cooling demand.
District Energy demand is based on the average of a building’s highest cooling peaks using a rolling 1-hour window recorded over the past two years. Demand is established as a fixed cost on the bill over 12 months, so small, incremental reductions can add up to big savings. A building’s programming (residential, office, commercial) will often dictate which methods are available to reduce demand. However, it is true for all buildings that you cannot manage what you do not measure.
District Energy meters can assist in doing just that. Coupled with a building’s automation system, District Energy can provide an output from its meter that will show up-to-the-minute readings of exactly how much cooling demand (aka “tons”) a building is using. With minimal programming, the building operator can set a limit on how much cooling the building is allowed to take. This limit, along with some minor temperature resets in non-critical areas, can result in real reductions in overall demand.
If you think your building could benefit from additional programming and improvements or if you would like more information regarding best practices and available outputs from the District Energy meter, please contact Jeff Volovsek at email@example.com
The Wave – April 2018
Letter from the President
This year marks the 35th anniversary of District Energy St. Paul’s service to this great city. Within our organization, this anniversary is more than just nostalgia over old black and white photos from yesteryear. We are connected to the company’s legacy through members of our staff who were here to welcome our first heating customers and have led us through significant advancements over the years. Our employees and supporters have been essential to the incredible growth of both the heating and cooling systems, the integration of renewable heat through our biomass-fired combined heat and power (CHP) system, the start-up of large-scale solar, and our continued efforts to make our systems smarter, more efficient, and more reliable. We have 20 employees who have been with District Energy for more than 20 years. Last month at our annual Legacy Day celebration, we celebrated the service of our people, including four employees that have been with the organization for 35 years. It is such an honor to work alongside people with significant history in the industry and in Saint Paul. I know that our customers and partners appreciate the level of continuity we have had in our operations and our people.
One marker of success for District Energy and our team is the ability to take what we have learned and what is emerging in the market to make sure our system is continually improving. In our annual report and newsletters, we try to keep you updated about service improvements such as metering, access to information, efficiency best practices, and other ways we have evolved our systems and services to make sure we exceed customer expectations. As part of our efforts to optimize operations, our team is closely involved with the International District Energy Association (IDEA). Last month, members of our staff from distribution, customer service, production, and public relations joined industry cohorts in Baltimore, MD, for the annual campus energy conference, a great place for team members to gain insight into new products and technical solutions that can better serve Saint Paul customers. The conference proceedings are available on the IDEA website.
Three trends from our industry that are currently gaining momentum here in Saint Paul: low temperature loops for higher efficiency and more renewable integration, decarbonization of overall systems, and managing meter data for improved performance. District Energy is already on track to sunset coal by 2020, but we continue to see opportunities to bring other renewables into our system. Of course, Saint Paul is already ahead of the curve thanks to the biomass-derived heat from a CHP facility that uses local tree waste for fuel, but there are still great opportunities to expand and integrate new solutions. To make this integration more energy efficient and cost-effective, our team is also looking at ways to optimize distribution system operating temperatures. In the coming months, our engineering team is evaluating our production and distribution system, as well as customer buildings to update our system master plan. We will be reaching out to customers during this process to make sure their evolving building needs are included in our system improvement plans.
As spring finally emerges, our team will be kicking into high gear for seasonal maintenance, master planning, customer appreciation day, and of course, getting ready for the first pitch at the Lowertown Ballpark. We look forward to seeing you all out and about as winter finally subsides. As always, don’t hesitate to contact our team with your questions and inquiries. We are here for you.
The 428 is Bringing WELL to Downtown Saint Paul
While many people will remember enjoying a soda or slice of pie at the F. W. Woolworth Co. lunch counter, few will recognize the building after its astounding renovation. Design elements in The 428 will honor the building’s former life through repurposed materials and a mid-century modern design, however, the building has been transformed into an inspiring, up-scale, and sustainable office space featuring wellness-focused amenities. The 428 offers a range of working spaces for individuals and organizations, including a co-working space with a roof-top patio called “Wellworth.” Our team at District Energy is thrilled to see this mix of innovation and sustainability added to downtown and our system.
In addition to Class A office space, The 428 will offer occupants innovative support for their health and wellness by following the International WELL Building Institute’s WELL Building Standards. Recognizing that we spend a majority of our time indoors, the WELL Building Standards are designed to make buildings and interior spaces healthy and nourishing for the body and mind by attending to seven concepts: air, water, light, fitness, comfort, mind, and nutrition. To improve the interior environment, The 428 will avoid VOCs in building materials, filter air and water, and manage natural light. Connecting to District Energy contributes to WELL standards by providing heat from renewable energy and helping to avoid refrigerants. The 428 is on track to be Minnesota’s first building to receive both LEED Silver certification and WELL Building Core and Shell certification.
The 428 renovation responds to workplace trends for co-working and wellness. Pat Wolf is the president of Commercial Real Estate Services that is developing the building, and she said, “Employee wellness is shifting focus to how businesses can create environments proven to make employees healthier and more productive, helping recruit and retain the best talent. We’re partnering with organizations to provide a firm foundation for health and sustainability for their staff and business.” Pat also serves on the Board of Directors for District Energy St. Paul.
District Energy is providing heating, domestic hot water, cooling, and snow melt to The 428. As long-term partners with Commercial Real Estate Services, we were eager to match our environmental values with their vision for the building. Pat said, “Our team has partnered with District Energy on three buildings, and we have all come to depend on the reliability of the system and the people. Working through LEED and WELL Building with them has taken our partnership to the next level.”
Building Piping Solution – Polypropylene
Our team monitors product and process developments that could benefit our customers and our system. Over the last few years, more options for piping products have come into the market, both for use in a primary system distribution, as well as the customer building-side hydronic loop. Our team has closely monitored and tested the new products including polypropylene-random (PP-R) and second generation polypropylene-random crystallinity temperature (PP-RCT). Several companies in the US and abroad offer products made from these compounds including Aquatherm, Niron, and ISCO.
While a few of our customers have installed these products, this winter The 428 building project installed Aquatherm for their entire building-side heating and cooling system. While Aquatherm has been developing products for three decades, Aquatherm’s blue pipe was introduced to the market in 2003. It is a rigid thermoplastic pipe that comes in a variety of sizes and can be substituted for pipes made from other plastics, copper, and steel. This pipe can be used in applications with temperatures from -5° F to 200° F based on pressure rating. The temperature and pressure ratings of the pipe make it a good solution for customer buildings on our system.
Features of polypropylene pipe include:
- The chemical compound is hydrophobic, inert, VOC-free, and resistant to chemicals. This means that there are no biologicals, pipe corrosion, or chemicals leaching into the water flowing through the pipe or leaching from outside the pipe into the building system.
- Since the pipe will not corrode, chemicals can be reduced for water treatment. However, water treatment is still required to protect heat exchangers and coils from fouling, scaling, and plugging.
- The absence of pipe corrosion and scaling can reduce the electrical demand for pumps over the life of the system.
- Pipes are non-conductive and do not require a dielectric separation or anode bag installation that metal pipes require.
- Pipe connections are heat fused creating one pipe and eliminating joints as well as glues or sealants.
- The material is heat resistant and has limited expansion and contraction, performing similar to copper in this regard.
- Pipes can be expected to last 60 years or more and can be recycled in most places depending on regulations.
Installation can be performed by a trained pipefitter.
Polypropylene pipe has some qualities that should be considered before it is selected for a project. While the material is lighter than metal pipe, it is more flexible, so it requires structural supports to be spaced more frequently. The width of the pipe wall is larger than steel and therefore may require increased pipe sizing depending on the application. Polypropylene pipe does not offer a solution for high temperature/high pressure applications.
Our construction superintendent, Jason Klinkner, has become one of our resident experts on piping products. Jason suggests that, “The 428 project was a good scenario to use Aquatherm for an internal building service. Not only does it have a significant warranty that is comforting to our customers, but it is also resilient to a wide variety of issues which makes it a great application.”
Aquatherm was developed in Germany and has a manufacturing and distribution location in Lindon, Utah. If you have a building project in your future and would like to learn more about polypropylene options, our team would be happy to help answer your questions firstname.lastname@example.org
Celebrating 35 Years with Legacy Day
District Energy is celebrating 35 years, and in March we hosted our annual Legacy Day to honor our employees for their service. We know that our people are our greatest asset, and Legacy Day is a time to slow down to say “thank you.” This year we honored 20 employees that have reached five-year milestones including four that have been with the company since the beginning, including Ron Anderson (Plant Superintendent), John Skeie (Relief Lead Engineer), Joe Lee, Sr., (Foreman), and Jeff Amacher (Relief Lead Engineer). A special thank you to these employees that have dedicated their careers to District Energy.
The event speakers included two others who were instrumental to the early years of District Energy. Former board member and former executive director of the Saint Paul Building Owners and Managers Association, Bill Buth, and former employee, Dave Parenteau, both shared entertaining tales of early challenges and triumphs for the system. Accountant Martha Modrynski also shared her reflections of starting with the company 27 years ago as she prepared for her own retirement this past month.
Save the Date for Customer Appreciation Day
We would like to thank you for your business and your partnership. Please save the date for our Customer Appreciation event at lunchtime on Tuesday, May 8, 2018. We look forward to connecting with you over good food, fun raffle prizes, and great conversations. This year we will host tours of the District Energy plant. If you have any questions, please contact Jenae Batt at 651.925.8170 or email@example.com
Join the World’s Largest Game of Catch
On May 17 you can join the World’s Largest Game of Catch hosted by the Saint Paul Saints and sponsored by District Energy. Come on down and bring a friend to our booth between 11:30 AM – 1 PM on 6th Street between Wacouta and Sibley. You can meet the Saints players as well as the team’s piggy mascot, get a food-truck lunch, pick up free gifts, and play catch with your downtown neighbors. This event is a great way to kick off a season of fun and baseball at CHS Field. We hope to see you in Lowertown.
Welcome Karissa Kostka
The District Energy public relations team welcomes a new member, Karissa Kostka, as our Marketing and Communications Generalist. Karissa will be relocating from Milwaukee, where she worked in marketing for a human services organization. She has previous work experience in environmental issues and sustainability, including her work with People’s Food Co-op, Olbrich Botanical Gardens, and Mississippi Valley Conservancy. Karissa’s skills in writing, design, and marketing are a great addition to our team. As she gets settled into to Minnesota life, she will be getting to know our customers and learning about our system’s technologies.
In her spare time, Karissa enjoys going to the farmers market and riding her bike. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse with a major in communications and a minor in environmental studies.
Connected for Good: 2017 Annual Report
District Energy St. Paul is connected for good. Our team is committed to the projects and partnerships that support the local economy and build vitality in Saint Paul. Please take a moment to learn more about our connections to the good work in our community in our 2017 Annual Report.
The Wave – November 2017
Letter from the President
An important part of providing value to our customers is monitoring the trends in our industry and across various market segments. My observation is that there is one consistent, underlying theme: the changing needs and expectations of customers. With access to volumes of information on their increasingly smart and internet-connected devices, customers are expecting more. They are leveraging their access to information and new tools and insights to take more control over their decisions.
As the energy systems built by our grandparents are being transformed to more responsive and personalized networks, the expectations of energy consumers are also changing. When District Energy St. Paul started 35 years ago our customer buildings did not have an automated building management systems. Today a majority of our customers use digital and even cloud-based building automation and management tools. Systems that put a wealth of real-time data at the fingertips of operators and owners. This data can be insightful, but it can also be a bit overwhelming to turn this data into information that can drive better system performance.
We know that an increasing percentage of our customers want to be on top of their energy usage, so they can use less and save money. This frequently means sifting through multiple data points to find answers. Working with our customers directly, we have seen many approaches to this analysis, and we have helped to identify specific solutions to make equipment and systems run more efficiently and effectively. This year we completed a multi-year effort to upgrade all customer primary meters to 1-minute data, and we are able to rapidly access the data on those meters. This investment is enabling us to help customers troubleshoot underperforming building systems and tune the performance to increase efficiency. District Energy customers can also integrate outputs from our meter directly into our customer’s building management system to analyze and control their energy use. As we continue to test and integrate new technologies, we are focusing on solutions that are reliable and cost-effective for our customers.
If you would like to learn more about integrating District Energy meter data into your system, or if you have a question about the tools available to you, please contact our customer service team at 651.297.8955.
333 on the Park
Last spring, new residents were welcomed home to 333 on the Park. District Energy was happy to welcome this beautiful apartment building as the 41st residential building on our system, providing it with cooling, heating, and domestic hot water.
A historic renovation, the building has been transformed into a 134-unit luxury apartment complex situated in the heart of the Artist District between Mears Park and the Union Depot. 333 on the Park offers studio, 1, 2, 3-bedroom, and penthouse apartments with high-end finishes. A few of the building amenities including a yoga studio, concierge, 24-hour fitness center, artist gallery, sky lounge, large community room, underground parking, and of course district heating and cooling. District Energy services are new to many of the tenants. From the sounds of it, they are quite pleased. Calsey Smith, Community Manager for 333 on the Park says, “The bills don’t lie. The residents are happy to see their utility bills much lower than the other properties that they have lived in previously.” The building operators and managers were also new to the system. They are extremely grateful for the outstanding customer support District Energy has provided during this learning period. “All of our questions and concerns are always answered immediately. Customer service is always quick to walk us through an issue or come on site to show us how,” stated Calsey.
333 on the Park was formerly known as The Gordon & Ferguson building. Constructed in 1913 and designed by Clarence H. Johnston Sr., a prominent Saint Paul architect. It was the original headquarters for entrepreneurs Richard Gordon and Paul Ferguson who dealt in hats. Their business grew to become the outdoor clothing line under the brands Field & Stream and Town & Country.
Ask the Engineer – Getting the Most out of Your Building Automation System Part 2
This is the second of two articles that focused on your building automation system. In this article, we will share some suggestions on using warnings to monitor system conditions. By taking some time to set up warnings on control points, you can use real-time building automation system information to identify which piece of equipment requires the attention of building operators before the issues turn into occupant complaints.
Alarms are a very common part of any automation system. They are used to tell building operators when things are too hot, too cold, when the command of an object does not match the status of the object, and many other conditions. What alarms will not do is allow operators to see when things are not properly controlling before they get outside of the allowable operating parameters. Setting up warnings on control points fills this gap.
Warnings are best used on analog outputs like damper commands, valve commands, pumps and fan speed outputs, as well as, PID loop values like cooling demands, heating demands, or static pressure resets. Warnings do not work for two-position equipment that require the control device to be on or off, nor will it work for equipment in series where one device is supposed to completely open before a second device starts to open. One example of this could be a 1/3 valve 2/3 valve operation.
Warnings can be setup in many ways but one common way is to add a warning to a point that is at 100% of its control range. In an effort to maintain control, the point has gone to its extreme position and is, or will likely soon be, letting the control variable drift out of the correct range. Examples of this would be a radiation valve that is 100% open but the room temperature continues to drop or a VAV-box that is providing 100% of the design air flow but the temperature is still increasing in the space. Figure 1 shows a VAV box that is 100% open but is shy of its design air flow by 30%.
Catching issues like this will help to prevent uncomfortable indoor conditions and reduce excess energy usage before they become major failures. In this reduced air flow example, the issue could be related to a reheat coil that has become coated with dust and debris and is no longer allowing enough air through the coil or it could be play or slack in the damper linkage. Regardless of the issue, a physical examination of the equipment is the only way to determine the problem.
Setting up warnings on your building automation system is another tool that building operators can use to monitor and manage building equipment. In the first article, we shared some suggestions on using totalizers to verify equipment run time and using pressure independent valves to monitor energy. If you have questions about energy savings opportunities or your District Energy connection, please contact the customer service team at 651.297.8955 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cyber security is a significant priority for most companies these days, as the general security environment is changing on a nearly constant basis. At District Energy, we recognize that security is a core element of our system reliability, and therefore we have put substantial effort into developing our security program over the years. The program is based on industry standards with necessary customization for the needs of our business and systems.
Our security program touches all levels of our information infrastructure including network systems, policies, monitoring protocols, staff training, and ongoing communication. Business networks and industrial controls systems require different methods to secure them and our program addresses these differences. Our team also has the ability to tailor security measures between operating sites, as needed, to meet unique security requirements. Our company’s leadership is committed to making cyber security a top priority on an ongoing basis, evolving to respond to an ever-changing environment while making sure that we continue to provide reliable services to our customers.
Saint Paul Building Engineers Attend Seminar
In early November we hosted engineers from our customer buildings for the annual Operating Engineers Seminar. Engineers Jeff Volovsek and Bob Ford presented information and solutions to help customers save energy as well as how to incorporate recent code changes for heat recovery and the best practices for process cooling. Tom Thomalla, Senior Information Technology Manager, also shared an overview of the cyber security initiatives at District Energy. This event was a great opportunity to connect with building operators. The presentation from the event is available here. Thank you to all who attended.
District Energy’s A- Bond Rating Confirmed by Standard and Poor’s
At District Energy we have focused on 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, while continuing to make investments in system upgrades.
This past month, our team was able to validate our approach to financial stewardship by affirming the A-/Stable rating we received in 2013 from Standard & Poor’s (S&P). S&P affirmed its long-term rating of A-/Stable for the 2017 Series 2017-3, 2017-4, (Taxable) Series 2017, Cooling Series 2013 A-E and Heating Series 2013-A-E revenue bonds.
The rating review reflects a series of credit strengths, including stable revenue under long-term contracts with a fairly diverse customer base, cost 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.
The Wave – August 2017
Letter from the President
The end of summer has always been one of my favorite times of the year. We are usually nearing the completion of major summer construction projects and the important offseason maintenance work in the plant. The heat of summer begins to wane, but we are still enjoying great evenings of baseball at CHS Field and dinner on the great Saint Paul patios. This year, the seasonal transition has also been punctuated by exciting changes with some of our partners. As a Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce board member, I was thrilled to welcome Brenda Kyle to the organization as the new President. We have had the privilege of collaborating with B during her time with the Saint Paul Port Authority, another stellar partner, and we are excited for this new chapter for her and the organization.
In addition to the aforementioned partnerships, our team looks at our work with our customers as a partnership. We work together to find ways to save energy and money and operate systems more effectively. And some may not realize that our primary systems actually integrate with customer systems to help supplement our primary production and continue our strong history of reliability, while still helping the system be cost-effective and flexible to needs. Regions Hospital has long been a valued partner who uses their central heating and cooling plant as a resource to support the reliability of the heating and cooling systems.
We are also excited to share the news from two of our customers that specialize in fun in Saint Paul. First, we are looking forward to sponsoring a new endeavor by the St. Paul Saints. The Saints are bringing together their partners, corporate sponsors, season ticket holders, and fans to converse, connect, and build community. The 3 C’s Club will offer event guests the opportunity to network and hear from unique speakers that will share their experiences through jokes and stories. At the first gathering in June, we met many new people that we look forward to getting to know better.
In this newsletter, you can learn more about the newly renovated Minnesota Children’s Museum. The Museum recently reopened after an innovative remodel that focuses on play. We could not be happier for the great reception the changes have received from the community.
Minnesota Children’s Museum Reimagined
Kids and adults are loving the reimagined Minnesota Children’s Museum since it reopened in June. After an extensive renovation to the building and exhibits, everything is new. District Energy has provided cooling to the museum since it opened in Saint Paul in 1995, and the remodel provided the perfect opportunity to expand our services to include heating and domestic hot water. We are excited to be part of the inspiring transformation of this regional destination.
The remodel is the museum’s first extensive overhaul of exhibits and the building since they moved to the Saint Paul location. The exhibits were redesigned with the philosophy that open-ended activities give children the space and freedom to explore, putting children and their imaginations in the driver’s seat. Activities without directions or predetermined outcomes encourage kids to figure things out for themselves as they experiment, tinker, and work together. Beyond the joy of free play, the goal is to help kids develop lifelong skills such as creative thinking, confidence, collaboration, and critical thinking.
“We’ve created a bigger, better, and bolder children’s museum,” said Dianne Krizan, president of Minnesota Children’s Museum. “Families will find ways to play, explore and learn together like never before.” There are 10 all-new exhibits that appeal to children from 6 months to tweens. Most of the exhibits have special areas called “Tot Spots” especially for younger children. A couple of highlights include The Scramble — a 4-story climbing adventure with a 2-story slide, The Studio — a maker space with real tools and authentic materials, and Super Awesome Adventures, which includes a green-screen climbing wall, laser maze, and carpet skate park. Plus there are two outdoor galleries that are open seasonally.
As soon as you step through the museum entrance, it is clear that kids love the new space. Adults will love it too. During the remodel the museum increased visitor space by 35%, added more restrooms, as well as a café with coffee bar, improved flow and sightlines throughout the museum, and added an entrance on the skyway level.
At District Energy we congratulate the museum on their exciting redesign. We are proud to take the worry out of energy production, so that the team at the museum can focus on their visitors having fun. In addition to museum’s great exhibits, the museum hosts a variety of activities and events including birthday parties, a 21+ event called “Adults @ Play” on September 28, and Halloween parties on Sunday, October 29 and Monday, October 30.
Ask the Engineer – Getting the Most out of Your Building Automation System
This is the first of two articles that will focus on your building automation system. In this article, we will share some suggestions on using totalizers to verify equipment run time and using pressure independent valves to monitor energy. Building automation can help building engineers monitor, integrate, and control building systems from air handling units to lighting. By taking some time to set up some operational parameters, you can gain insight beyond past trends and failure alarms to identify problems in system function. Many control points or objects have built in features that take a few steps to enable.
The cheapest and easiest way to save energy is to simply turn off equipment when it does not need to run. A basic step in setting up a building’s automation system is to establish a schedule. Scheduling generally reflects building occupancy and tells equipment when to turn on and off to accommodate the needs of the people in the building. With a schedule in place, you can set up a simple cross-check to make sure that all the equipment is running for the desired amount of time per the schedule by enabling the totalization property on both the schedule object and the equipment status. The totalization property counts all the time that a piece of equipment is running or the hours that the schedule is occupied. By checking the equipment runtime each week against the appropriate schedule it will be apparent if the equipment did not run long enough, ran too long, or may not have shutdown at all. This simple check will help to ensure that you are optimizing the amount of energy your building is saving.
Figure 1 below shows a sample of the programming that includes point totalization, resets, and the value before reset properties of each points. This example shows a fan that ran 22 extra hours above its schedule, which in this case is 35% longer than it was supposed to. Not only does this represent additional fan energy, but it can also represent running cooling or heating pumps longer, conditioning more outside air, and increasing equipment maintenance and repair.
If you have ever wondered if different pieces of equipment run with the same efficiencies or which parts of your building take more energy to provide the same comfort, then installing pressure independent valves and/or energy valves may be a low-cost option to provide some proportional insight into energy saving opportunities. In order to calculate energy usage, you need two things: fluid flow rate and the differential temperature before and after the device. These types of control valves by design allow for precise control for consistent water flow at air handling units, fan coils, and other hydronic devices. Temperature sensors and a well to install them can cost between $50-$100 plus the labor to install them. A good time to install pressure independent valves is when you are replacing existing valves or at the time of new project or major remodel. With these devices, the building automation system can be used to calculate, trend, and totalize the energy being used from each piece of equipment. Weekly or monthly comparisons can be made between different devices as well as the history of the same device to identify when equipment may be using excess energy. This could help to identify issues like plugging or coating coils, failed dampers, and equipment that is taking energy even though its associated fan or pump is supposed to be turned off.
By enabling your totalization settings and adding pressure independent valves, you can enhance your building automation system to gain a better understanding of your building’s actual energy use. In addition to saving money on energy, these tools can help you to identify equipment issues. If you have questions about energy savings opportunities or your District Energy connection, please contact the customer service team at 651.297.8955 or email@example.com.
Welcome Holly Jasper
The District Energy public relations team welcomes a new member, Holly Jasper, as our Marketing and Communications Coordinator. Her recent experience is in the local construction industry where she gained extensive experience in developing proposals and presentations to win new projects. Holly’s skills in design and marketing are a great addition to our team. She is getting to know our customers and learning about our system’s technologies. She said, “I am looking forward to working with the District Energy team and the challenge of learning this industry.”
Holly has worked in marketing for McGough, Mortenson, and Knutson Construction. In her spare time, she likes to bake and kick box. She graduated from the College of St. Scholastica with a BA in accounting. She worked in accounting for four years before shifting her career to marketing.
It is important to us that we have accurate contact information for our customers. We are in the process of reaching out to organizations to confirm that we have correct information for your building. If you have not updated your contact information with us this summer, please take a moment to complete the Contact Update Form.
The Wave – May 2017
Letter from the General Manager
As I start my fifth month at District Energy St. Paul, I continue to learn about what matters most to you, our customers and community stakeholders. While it is a shift for me to work for a non-profit, one thing that has been true everywhere I have worked is the drive to exceed customer’s expectations.
What is abundantly clear, even as the new guy in town, is that District Energy has a very capable team dedicated to providing the services that help our customers reach their goals. Our team listens to our customers to learn how their buildings work, what affects their operations, and to understand how we can help. Customers consistently tell us that reliability is key, and that easy-to-operate systems that are cost-competitive are important to them.
District Energy has a long history of working alongside our customers in Saint Paul, and I am exploring what we can do to make the customer experience even better. We know that the early stages of project planning are critical to overall project success. Our engineering team wants to be involved from the very beginning, helping to answer your questions and problem solve so our system is easily integrated. This provides you with the peace of mind knowing that our experts are working on your behalf to ensure that your system will be designed properly and implementation will be both efficient and effective. We also see a continued rise in energy efficiency interest and investments and want to reinforce that we are available to help identify and implement these projects, whether it is navigating technical options or helping to assess financing tools.
As our team continues to hone our responses to your needs, I welcome your suggestions and ideas. I look forward to your feedback and suggestions from the annual Customer Survey. I am available to meet with you for coffee or lunch. I look forward to getting to know you and your organization to better understand how we can exceed your expectations.
Todd Skjervold, General Manager
Ask the Engineer – Efficiency Gains with Cooling Start Up
It is the time of year when customers have already switched on the air conditioning in their buildings. As we look toward the warmest days of summer, our engineers would like to offer some strategies to optimize your cooling systems. A few key activities can help manage monthly cooling demand. These efforts include starting equipment at minimum speed and ramping up to operating conditions, staging individual equipment start up schedules, and tuning flow control.
There are several measures that can be taken to stage equipment start up, including staggering when units are scheduled to start and limiting their output with a ramp function. Ideally, your peak cooling demand should occur during peak cooling conditions, following the weather patterns and occurring in late afternoon when the outside air and building are at their warmest. When controls are not programmed to stage equipment start-up, a false demand peak can be set first thing in the morning when equipment comes online. There are a couple of ways to stagger equipment. First, if air handlers and pumps are powered by a VFD, change the programming so that this equipment starts at minimum speed. This will allow the air and water systems to move less fluid around the system limiting the output of each device when temperatures are the farthest away from the normal operating condition. Once a control valve for a loop has been able to control the leaving fluid temperature to its respective set point, then the pump or fan can ramp up its speed slowly over 30 to 60 minutes depending on the size of the system, slowly bringing the building temperature down without setting a morning peak. If you have only a few large air handling systems, staggering the start by 15 to 30 minutes will further reduce the chances of setting a peak at startup.
Another method for managing monthly cooling demand is to tune flow control. A hunting control valve will generate times of peak load followed by almost no load. By improving the flow control on the valve, a more steady demand can be achieve avoiding high peaks, and it is easier on equipment keeping the pumps, valves, and motors at constant operation. The graph to the left shows a building that only needs to average 70 tons an hour but peaks at 180 tons for 5 minutes and then drops off to 5 tons for 5 minutes. This variation between too much cooling and then too little cooling impacts building occupants. For optimal thermal comfort slow transitions should be made to eliminate these variations.
If you have questions about implementing these measures in your building, or if you would like additional assistance to get the most from your District Energy cooling connection, please contact our team at 651.297.8955 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Celebrating Ground Breaking at the Treasure Island Center
On the sunny afternoon of April 11, the District Energy team gathered with other Saint Paul stakeholders at the newly named Treasure Island Center to celebrate the project’s ground breaking. District Energy is proud to provide heating, domestic hot water, and cooling to the facility. We have been working with the Port Authority and their development team to create a customized solution that will provide the best service to the building and the new tenants.
The most unique feature of the redevelopment will be the NHL-quality ice rink located on the top floor of the facility. Instead of using an external cooling tower, District Energy chilled water will be used as a source for heat rejection for the chiller that will keep the ice hockey ready. The rink will serve as a practice facility for the Minnesota Wild as well college and amateur teams, camps and classes, and community groups.
Additional building tenants include TRIA Orthopaedic, Walgreens, Minnesota Housing Finance Agency, Stacked Deck Brewing, and Tim Horton’s. The building is scheduled to open this fall. Congratulations to the Saint Paul Port Authority and Hempel Companies as well as all of the sponsors and tenants for reaching this significant milestone.
New customer: 333 on the Park
District Energy welcomes its newest heating and cooling customer 333 on the Park, a high-end apartment building adjacent to Mears Park in Lowertown. On March 23 the building hosted guests for a grand opening. During the event, tours of the newly renovated building featured model apartments from studios to penthouses, fitness center, rooftop terrace, and pet spa. Constructed in 1913, the historic building was originally home to leather good manufacturer Gordon and Ferguson. Congratulations to project partners and best wishes to all the new tenants that will call this beautiful building home.
We Appreciate our Customers
We connect with our customers throughout the year and in a variety of ways, and each year we host an event to express our gratitude. On May 24 we hosted customers at our offices for great conversations, lunch, and raffle prizes. This year a highlight of Customer Appreciation Day was a tour of the solar thermal installation on the roof of the Saint Paul RiverCentre. Our team enjoys this opportunity to connect with long-time partners and meet new employees at the companies that we serve. We appreciate the insight that our customers can offer on what is working well for them and projects where we can help them get the most out of their District Energy connection. Thanks again to all of our customers for selecting District Energy. If you have questions or are looking for assistance in your building, please contact our team at 651.297.8955 or email@example.com.
Our annual Customer Survey is now available. Please take a few moments to provide us with feedback and help us better understand your customer experience.
It is important to us that we have accurate contact information for our customers. If your contact information has recently changed, please take a moment to complete the Contact Update Form.
Sustainable Saint Paul Award for Green Building Design
District Energy’s office building received the honor of the Sustainable Saint Paul Award for Green Building Design at the City Council meeting on April 18. The award recognizes community members and organizations for making a commitment to creating a more sustainable Saint Paul. Our team accepted the award along with project design partner LHB.
In the redesign of the Jemne Building, focus was given to energy efficiency, waste reduction, and environmental stewardship. Beyond physical and mechanical designs, our team continues to monitor ongoing operations for efficiency. The award committee acknowledged a few of the building’s key features and accomplishments:
- Updated mechanical and electrical systems are expected to help us exceed energy code expectations by 30%, including new HVAC upgrades and LED lighting.
- Saving water through new low-flow systems.
- Installation of two electric charging stations and a living wall of plants.
- 13.5% of new materials from recycled content, 10.2% are bio-based.
- Composted 1 ton of waste and recycled 6.5 tons of materials in first year.
Connecting Students to the Energy Industry
The Student Energy Partnership was developed to connect students across the Twin Cities region with fellow students and local professionals. The goals of this partnership are to expose students to the energy industry’s many facets and to help them figure out where they fit into it, while building their professional networks.
On April 27 the Student Energy Partnership hosted a sustainability and energy jobs panel for students interested in working in the industry. There were 20 students in attendance representing 6 local colleges and universities. Event speakers included Jothsna Harris of Climate Generation, Annie Levinson-Falk of the Citizens Utility Board of MN, and Gregg Mast of Clean Energy Economy MN. Panelists talked about their career path, job fit, diversity in the industries, industry trends, and how to build a professional network.
The students and professionals shared great ideas and engaged in thought-provoking conversations. It is exciting to see young people interested in our field of work and to see our own network expanding.
District Energy Honored with Sustainable Saint Paul Award
District Energy St. Paul was honored with the Sustainable Saint Paul Award for Green Building Design – Existing Building.
Press Release – April 19, 2017
“Mayor Coleman and City Council announce 2017 Sustainable Saint Paul Award winners”
Award Winners 2017
“Sustainable Saint Paul Awards”
The Wave – March 2017
Early spring may be upon us, but this time of year can present challenges for building systems as the temperature abruptly drops with cold, brisk winds, and accelerates upwards with warm sunshine. As Saint Paul’s hometown energy provider we are just down the street and ready to assist our customers with demanding weather days. Our team takes our role to heart and works hard to provide our customers with reliable energy delivery supported by exceptional customer service. That service includes providing expert technical advice on how to get the most from your service and practical suggestions on how to efficiently and effectively operate your building systems. If you have not taken advantage of this service from our team, I encourage you to do so. I regularly hear from customers about how members of our team helped them to operate their buildings systems more effectively.
In January, we added Todd Skjervold to further strengthen the abilities of our team and enhance our service to our customers. As our new General Manager for Saint Paul operations, Todd is here to assist the team in delivering its commitment of providing excellent service to our customers. When you see Todd out and about, please take the chance to introduce yourself. He has quickly integrated himself into the company, working hard to familiarize himself with our customers and operations. Todd’s breadth of experience and passion for customer care enriches our approach to customer service. As President and CEO of District Energy, I remain committed to the success for our customers and our organization, but will begin to share the communications role with Todd as he takes the reins of our operations. Starting with the next newsletter, you will be hearing from Todd in a letter from the GM. You are always welcome to reach out to me, and I will continue to be in touch with you.
As you transition your building from winter to spring, let us know if we can help with your energy needs. Please take a moment to read about some of the great organizations we support in our 2016 Annual Report. We know that making energy production easier for building owners allows them to focus on their primary mission from government to banking and entertainment to industry, we support the great work that drives Saint Paul’s economy.
Welcome Todd Skjervold
Todd Skjervold joined District Energy as its General Manager in January. Todd is a proven business leader that approaches his work with a keen focus on the customer experience. His expertise with operations and efficiency are expertly aligned with our core commitments to delivering exceptional service to our customers, outstanding reliability, and overall operational excellence. Our team works to ensure that customers are getting the most out of their connection to District Energy, and we know that Todd will contribute significantly to this work.
Prior to joining District Energy, Todd led a business unit within Cummins Power Generation that uses natural gas generators from 1MWe to 2MWe to build cogeneration, prime power, peaking and backup power plants. Before that, he was with Trane Commercial Systems which manufactures and supports some of the controls and equipment that we use in our plants. These experiences have not only helped Todd to understand district energy technologies, but have also given him insight into what matters most to customers and end-users.
Todd is working side-by-side with the team to help District Energy customers and potential customers as they make decisions about their heating and cooling needs. He said, “We offer excellent value to our customers, and I look forward to helping them realize the advantages of our full range of services. Our business model is designed to make us a partner that works with our customers to help them accomplish their objectives. This takes us beyond merely supplying energy to being a heating and cooling system expert whose goal is to help customers manage their total costs and system performance. This gives our customers peace of mind knowing that experts are looking out for their best interests.”
Todd has enjoyed his first few months at District Energy, he said, “The team here is fantastic. Capable, dedicated, and fun. I am impressed by the performance of our systems over a long period of time which is a testament to the dedication of our team.” When he is not at work, Todd enjoys spending time with his family including his wife Michelle and their sons, Erik (7) and Anders (4). He also has a knack for growing mutant rose bushes.
Todd can be reached at 651.925.8115 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Welcome New District Energy Customers
We are happy to welcome two new customers to the system, Higher Ground and Palace Theatre. In January, Catholic Charities’ new Higher Ground facility opened its doors. The new accommodations offers emergency shelter and permanent supportive housing for adults, along with added space for medical services. District Energy is proud to be a project supporter and service partner providing heating and cooling services to this important community project. In March, the City of Saint Paul’s Palace Theatre opened its doors to the first public concert in 33 years. District Energy is happy to be part of this project providing heating and cooling to what promises to be a vibrant music venue in the heart of downtown.
Save the Date: Customer Appreciation Day
Thank you for being our customers. We would like to show our appreciation and celebrate the past year with you. Please save the date of May 24, 2017, to join us for lunch and Customer Appreciation Day. The event is a great opportunity for you to connect with other customers and the District Energy team. We look forward to seeing you. Please contact Jenae Batt for questions or to RSVP email@example.com or 651.925.8170.
District Energy: Energy Efficiency through System Optimization
Customers on a district energy system benefit from the efficiencies of district energy’s flexible and adaptive technology. The district energy approach leverages thermal storage, aggregates customer loads to achieve more efficient heating and cooling production, and integrates multiple heat sources, helping the system be more reliable, efficient, and reach a better environmental profile. District systems make utilizing low-grade energy like solar thermal more economical on a large-scale basis. Buildings in downtown Saint Paul have diverse energy needs, for example commercial office buildings require heating and domestic hot water during the day while residential buildings have a higher demand in the evening. This type of load diversity pairs very well with district energy systems that can flex to each demand with our fleet of energy production equipment. Optimizing the available equipment to the seasonal and daily peaks at a district system level, improves overall efficiency in the system, which reduces costs to customers and lowers the energy footprint for all buildings and users.
At District Energy our engineers have an in-depth knowledge of how our system performs best with each building and they work closely with building operators to achieve higher efficiency and reliability. Our engineers can help our customers get the most out of their District Energy connection by providing operational and maintenance knowledge including advice on building equipment upgrades, control optimization, and aligning daily plant operation with the system needs. For current customers, we can help you refine your system to get the most out of the original design of the District Energy interface and improve efficiency. For new customers, our engineers will work side-by-side with your architects and engineering staff to make sure the mechanical interface is right for your building’s needs and helps you run efficiently, reliably, and cost-effectively.
If you are interested in speaking with one of our engineers, please contact Customer Service at 651.297.8955.
District Energy St. Paul 2016 Annual Report
The people, organizations, and businesses in Saint Paul are more than just our customers, they are the partners that make great things happen in our community, and we are happy to play a part in their success stories. Please take a moment to read their stories and learn more about what keeps us all connected. 2016 Annual Report.
The Wave – November 2016
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.
Downtown Saint Paul Building Engineers Attend Seminar
In 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
A 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.
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.
District 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 traditionally 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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Ron Anderson Moves into Plant Superintendent Role
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 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
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.