Plume Project Launches 2nd Installation – Solar Systems

¬For immediate release

Nina Axelson
District Energy St. Paul
Direct: 612-695-1288

Plume Project Launches 2nd Installation – Solar Systems

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More information about the projects can be found at or

About the Plume Project Artists

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

About District Energy St. Paul

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