The Wave – April 2018

Letter from the President

Ken Smith

Ken Smith

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

The 428 renderingWhile 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 renderingThe 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.”

Contact The 428 team at 651-290-8890 to learn more about the innovative and healthy office spaces available in the heart of Saint Paul.

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.

AquathermWhile 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.

AquathermPolypropylene 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

Celebrating 35 Years with Legacy Day

Buth Smith Parenteau

Bill Buth, Ken Smith, Dave Parenteau

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.

We are grateful to all of our employees that dedicate their time and talents to our customers and our organization. Our system reliability is built on the integrity of our team members.

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

Join the World’s Largest Game of Catch

World's Largest Game of CatchOn 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

Karissa Kostka

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.