When most people think of District Energy, they likely think of the plant on Kellogg Boulevard by the Mississippi River and the important services we provide to Saint Paul. Certainly, our business is about the physical connection customers have to our heating and cooling services through underground piping, but we also know that it is our deeper connection to the community and what our services enable in those buildings that makes Saint Paul a better place to live, work, and play. At a recent community meeting, several of our customers proclaimed, “I am connected,” when asked if they were served by District Energy. This is a great way to think about how our customers connect to each other, to downtown Saint Paul, and the energy solutions our company provides.
We are connected to the goals and outcomes of our customers. By providing reliable services with competitive rates and innovative solutions, we help businesses, health care providers, entertainers, and residents to focus on fulfilling their mission and goals. Connecting with District Energy simplifies energy delivery and reduces in building mechanical equipment maintenance, which benefits companies both large and small. When we help our customers reach their goals, it benefits our community and in turn our system. We are all connected.
As you will see in this newsletter, we have had an extraordinary amount of opportunities this spring to talk with people from the community and to connect them to the story of our energy system. In collaboration with our outstanding partners a new chapter in energy education in Saint Paul was launched with the Saint Paul EcoDistrict. This project is helping us to connect students and educators to the abundance of science and sustainability within a unique geographic area surrounding our Kellogg plant. We also had the opportunity to support our customers’ important spring events as a sponsor, including the Great River Gathering Riverwork Exhibit, the World’s Largest Game of Catch, and Show Us Your Pipes Night at the Saint Paul Saints Game. These events are an important part of building a civic and social fabric in this great city, and we are so proud to be a partner to the efforts. It truly shows us the deep connections of our work to our neighbors and stakeholders. As important was the celebration of our customers, which took place at CHS Field the eve of opening day for the Saints. It was a great opportunity to enhance connections between our customers and our staff, which leads to greater information sharing and more opportunities for all of us to learn new ways to be the best at what we do.
We value the connections that we have to our customers, the community, and the activities in Saint Paul, and we also appreciate how we connect the people and initiatives to each other. Our strong, vibrant, and growing city will continue to offer shared opportunities for us to explore. We look forward to having the opportunity to connect with you soon.
Ask the Engineer – Water Treatment for Your Cooling Loop
This is the second article in our series on water quality for your district energy loops, which will focus on your building’s hydronic cooling system. There are two distinct connection methods to District Cooling, direct connection and connection through a heat exchanger. Heat exchangers are a preferred and recommended connection approach that separates your building water from the district cooling water. They are an important element of internal mechanical systems that allow you complete control of your own water chemistry and mitigate the risks to the cooling system and your building loop.
This month we will concentrate on the differences in treating your chilled water loop based on whether you are a direct connect customer or a customer with a heat exchanger.
Direct connect customers: If you are a direct connect cooling customer, your building takes water from the district cooling plant and distributes it directly to all terminal cooling devices in your building (fan coils, air handling units, etc.). Because you are circulating treated district cooling water, the water chemistry in your building cooling loop should not need special care if your system is in use all year round.
If your system is not in use all year round, freeze protection can be a concern during Minnesota’s long winters. While your cooling system is idle for the winter, we recommend circulating the water in your coils to keep them from freezing. Alternatively you may choose to carefully drain your coils absolutely dry. This can be achieved by ducting warm air from the discharge side of the heating coil back to the lower drain of the drained cooling coil and allowing it to blow through the coil and out through the air release for several weeks until dry. If the coil is not dry, microbial induced corrosion (MIC) can cause pitting and premature coil failure.
Do not, however, add glycol (antifreeze) to your coils to keep them from freezing. Our district cooling system does not contain glycol; therefore you should never add glycol to any part of your directly connected loop as this contaminates the main distribution system’s water. Even if you flush your coils of the glycol in the springtime, there is residual glycol that ends up in the district cooling water. All district cooling water is carefully monitored and regularly treated, and contaminants such as this add cost for maintaining the distribution system, which can affect demand rates.
Customers with heat exchangers: If you have a cooling heat exchanger, your water treatment schedule will be different since the heat exchanger separates the district cooling water from mixing with your building’s chilled water loop. You will need to perform annual water quality testing to make sure that the pH and corrosion inhibitors are at their appropriate levels and biologicals are not growing in the cooling loop. If you have glycol in your cooling loop, it needs to be maintained at its appropriate concentration. Less than 30% glycol is not lethal to bacteria and can actually become food stimulating bacterial growth. Biological growth and dead biological matter can significantly reduce the efficiency of your system and can be costly and difficult to correct.
Annual Customer Appreciation Day
Every year, District Energy hosts events to thank our customers for their loyal business and partnership. This year we had the unique opportunity to host our annual customer appreciation day at CHS Field, home of the Saint Paul Saints. The event for District Energy heating and cooling customers is a great time for our customers to connect with each other and with our team. As an added bonus, this year’s event included a behind the scenes tour of the ballpark and the building’s District Energy mechanical operations. This was a great day to connect with our customers, following the World’s Largest Game of Catch, and just the day before the first official pitch was thrown at CHS Field. We are thrilled to have CHS Field connected to our system and look forward to seeing our customers again in the fall for our annual Operating Engineer’s Seminar.
The Saints Come Marching In
In an exciting kickoff to the Saint Paul Saints inaugural season at CHS Field, we played catch with hundreds of District Energy customers and Saint Paul Saints fans in Lowertown. Along Mears Park, 7th Street became a street fair filled with folks eager to play catch with the Saints ball players in the World’s Largest Game of Catch, an event that marks the beginning of the baseball season for Saint Paul’s hometown team. The District Energy St. Paul team tossed out 1,500 commemorative balls, mingled with the players, and handed out sunglasses. Our customers could proudly answer the question printed on the sunglasses, “Are you connected?” Ken Smith, CEO and President of District Energy St. Paul, kicked off the event with a welcome to the crowd. Ken shared his excitement about the new ballpark and one of our newest customers, “District Energy is honored to be part of this story and to connect CHS field and its thousands of visitors to our sustainable heating and cooling services. We welcome the Saints to the neighborhood and are looking forward to spending our summers together in Lowertown.” It was a fun event that connected us more closely to the people we serve..
Launching the Saint Paul EcoDistrict – A Platform for Sustainability, Technology, and Education
Over the past few years, District Energy and its neighbors have been receiving a growing amount of attention for our sustainability initiatives, becoming a place that students and science lovers could come to learn. It is the only place in the country that visitors can find 7 solar installations, underground pipes connecting people to efficient renewable energy, waste wood being used to heat half of downtown, and organizations setting the bar for energy conservation and waste reduction. All within just a few blocks downtown and overlooking the Mississippi River. These projects were developed individually by the buildings and organizations in this “district,” including the City of Saint Paul, the Science Museum of Minnesota, the Saint Paul RiverCentre and Xcel Energy Center, and District Energy St. Paul. Through the help of Visit Saint Paul, the partners decided to bring these stories to the public to increase understanding of how these technologies work and to showcase something Saint Paul is doing better than most other cities.
To celebrate this unique intersection of projects, the partners officially launched the Saint Paul EcoDistrict and a supporting website in May, which will help visitors get to know this area and these great projects through the web content and self-guided physical tours. The website, www.saintpaulecodistrict.com, is the first phase of a multi-year development that hopes to encourage more sustainability programming and technology installations, create hands-on learning opportunities for visitors, and foster collaboration between other projects in this area and sustainability efforts within the city. District Energy is proud to be a partner, showcase our advanced technologies, and use this collaboration to further our education outreach efforts. Read more about our launch.
Exploring Place and Possibility
District Energy joined the Science Museum of Minnesota, Smart Trips, and Amanda Lovelee (Artist in Residence for the City of Saint Paul), to host a placemaking workshop for the Saint Paul EcoDistrict. The event was part of the Saint Paul Riverfront Corporation’s 4th annual placemaking residency, focusing this year on the intersection of place and health, featured experts were on hand to share their expertise and insights including Dr. Richard Jackson and Gehl Studios. The event included a diverse group of stakeholders invited to create a common vision for this geographic area, which includes the District Energy plant and main office, generally from St. Peter Street to West 7th and between Rice Park and the Mississippi River. This area of downtown Saint Paul is experiencing an unprecedented level of investment, planning, and design with many project partners and immense potential to recreate the function and feel of this area.
Beyond the specific sustainability initiatives District Energy is helping to lead, this area of downtown will also serve as an intersection of transit, bike paths and bike sharing, the River Balcony, public art, river education and experience, Rice Park improvement, new construction, and continued promotion of Saint Paul as a premiere international destination. With so much activity and investment, is it important that stakeholders have a common understanding of these dynamic projects and can establish some common goals and opportunities for their initiatives. They will achieve significantly more together than as independent projects.
In addition to public engagement efforts before the workshop, the placemaking workshop brought people together to share context, consider user experiences, explore a common vision, and set a plan in motion to achieve a grander plan for this EcoDistrict. The feedback from the event will help with efforts to have individual projects to work together to explore and develop common themes and attributes within the district that serve a common purpose, which may include higher visibility for the projects and the district, health and wellness, walkability, outdoor and indoor activity, livability, art, and sustainability. Read more about the Placemaking Residency and the day we spent exploring the Saint Paul EcoDistrict.
Celebrating the 21st Annual Great River Gathering and RiverWork Exhibit
District Energy was proud to sponsor the RiverWork Exhibit at the Great River Gathering for the 4th consecutive year. The annual event presented by the Saint Paul Riverfront Corporation is an opportunity for non-profits, local businesses, and organizations to showcase their projects and programs that foster community development in Saint Paul, especially as it relates to the Mississippi River. This year’s theme focused on the intersection of place and health. With 61 exhibitors and 1,000 guests, the Great River Gathering was a great place to talk about how we are connected to the growth and vitality of Saint Paul. At the event we enjoyed the occasion to connect with customers, community members, city innovators, and civic leaders about the benefits that community energy brings to the individuals and businesses in downtown. The event highlights how guests are connected to each other through projects, interests, and activities in Saint Paul, and as an energy provider to many of these folks, we are invested in supporting the success of their endeavors. At the RiverWork Exhibit we displayed a large illustration that highlights the network of customers that are connected to the system, which helped guests visualize all of the ways that they are connected to District Energy.
This year we had the great pleasure of being joined at our exhibit table by three of the independent artists that will light the plume over District Energy St. Paul this winter. Their miniature dry ice plume replica enticed guests to stop by to learn more about this public art project. Artists Aaron Dysart, Asia Ward, Emily Stover, and Andrea Steudel will create three unique lighting experiments that will use the steam plume as their canvas. The projects range include using NASA’s solar data, highlighting the rhythm of energy through poetry, and an educational public drawing contest. Partially funded by a challenge grant from the Knight Foundation, The Plume Project will help to educator visitors about Saint Paul’s sustainable community energy.
Show us Your Pipes
June 8 was “Show Us Your Pipes” night with the Saint Paul Saints, presented by District Energy St. Paul. Our team was out in force, greeting guests at the door with temporary tattoos, sunglasses, and the opportunity to enter a photo contest and “show us your pipes!” Our company employees joined in the fun participating in the first pitch of the night and the tug of war, won impressively by our team! We are thrilled to support the Saints and to work with them to connect our team and our message with their great fans and with Saint Paul!