Industry News

 View Only

District Energy marks 40 years in St. Paul with new hydrogen generator

By District Energy posted 09-27-2023 13:34


Y! News


When oil prices more than quadrupled during the national energy crisis of the 1970s, downtown St. Paul’s coal-powered steam plant was already creaking toward the end of its functional life.
Alarmed as much by rising energy costs as by the rising steam seeping up through cracks in the downtown sidewalk, then-Mayor George Latimer convinced city building owners to back a new downtown-specific utility that would seek innovative ways to heat structures and keep energy prices steady. The St. Paul District Energy system roared to life 40 years ago this month — September 1983 — with the downtown Central Library, now known as the George Latimer Central Library, as its first client.
“It was established to be a model for the nation,” said Ken Smith, chief executive officer of District Energy, during a plant tour on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, District Energy officials received lease approval from the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners to use part of the county’s adjoining lot on Kellogg Boulevard — the former site of the West Publishing buildings — to host a hydrogen generator, opening the door to experimentation with different fuels that could help achieve carbon-neutrality in the years ahead.
The nonprofit utility — the largest hot water heating system in North America — now pumps hot water through an intricate system of underground pipes to more than 80% of downtown and the surrounding area, or 30 million square feet of structures, from the State Capitol campus to the Mount Airy Homes, United Hospital, St. Paul College and some buildings on the city’s West Side.
District Energy also cools upwards of 60% of the downtown area through a chilled water storage system, with utility rates that over the years have climbed slower than inflation.