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.
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.