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The International District Energy Association Announces IDEA2024 Award Winners

By District Energy posted 24 days ago


System of the Year, Innovation Award, Person of the Year and District Energy Space Awards Presented at IDEA Annual Conference & Trade Show

The International District Energy Association (IDEA) announced the winners of the IDEA System of the Year Award (SOYA), the Joseph M. Brillhart IDEA Innovation Award and the Norm Taylor Person of the Year Award and the District Energy Space Awards at its 115th annual conference in Orlando, Florida.

Winning the SOYA this year was the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign for its cogeneration system, which couples the generation and consumption of energy streams to help manage and decrease system demand, thereby reducing costs and emissions. At the heart of the Urbana campus’ system is Abbot Power Plant, which supplies approximately 85% of the campus’ energy needs. The system also includes the Energy Management Control Center to help the university manage and lower system demand; provide geothermal energy; allow for the continuous review and improvement of building performance through remote, computerized monitoring; and manage two large-scale on-site solar arrays, which have helped the campus exceed its sustainability goals.

“We could not be more proud to be honored by IDEA with the System of the Year Award,” said Robert Roman, Director of Utilities and Energy Services at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. “It is imperative that we maximize efficiencies and decrease carbon emissions, while also maintaining the high standard of reliability and resiliency that our students, faculty and staff have come to expect. Over the last 15 years, the university has reduced its energy use per square foot by approximately 40%, and we look forward to continuing to improve on efficiencies and decarbonization in the years to come.”

System of the Year is the highest honor IDEA can confer on a district energy system, recognizing high-level performance, reliability, efficiency and industry engagement, while furthering the goals of the district energy industry.

Also winning this year was Enwave Energy Corporation. Enwave took home the Joseph M. Brillhart Innovation Award for its efforts to help decarbonize the Fairmont Royal York Hotel. This award represents the best in public and private collaboration, where members share emerging best practices, new technologies and techniques, and the tremendous value of collaboration within the industry.

The Fairmont Royal York Hotel is an iconic hotel located in downtown Toronto that first opened in 1929. In collaboration with Continual Energy, Inc., Enwave’s remit was to reduce the hotel’s dependency on fossil fuels by 80%. To accomplish this feat, Enwave replaced the hotel’s existing chiller plant with a new plant that is connected to its Deep Lake Water Cooling (DLWC) system for its cooling needs, and for heating, they used a modular heat pump system connected to the company’s district loop in Toronto.

The innovative use of these two systems came through their integration – through the heat pumps, Enwave repurposes the waste heat from cooling customers in the district that was previously lost to the atmosphere or Lake Ontario to deliver low carbon heating to the Royal York Hotel, in what Enwave refers to as the next generation of district solutions.

“By repurposing waste heat from cooling customers in the district, we have unlocked a sustainable solution that defies convention,” said Carson Gemmill, Vice President, Solutions & Innovations at Enwave Energy Corporation. “Our approach tackles the pressing issue of carbon emissions and underscores our commitment to being a catalyst for positive change. In essence, this district heat recovery solution represents the next frontier in urban sustainability.”

This is the first year the award was given out as the Joseph M. Brillhart Innovation Award, named after the beloved former IDEA Board Chair and Executive Committee Member who launched the award 10 years ago. Brillhart passed away in 2023 and the IDEA Board unanimously voted to name the award after him.

Empower Energy Solutions and Ecosystem Energy both received Honorable mentions for the Joseph M. Brillhart Innovation Award, with two Honorable Mentions going to Empower and one to Ecosystem.

Empower received its first Honorable Mention for its upgrades and retrofits of its plant in Dubai’s Business Bay, the city’s central business district. Specifically, Empower transitioned the operations of its chiller compressor motors from soft starters to medium voltage drives to optimize energy consumption and enhance sustainability. “By leveraging MV Drives, the operations team can precisely control the speed and power output of the chiller compressor motors according to the actual requirements, thereby minimizing energy wastage,” said Ahmad Bin Shafar, CEO of Empower.

Empower received its second Honorable Mention for a project at another of its systems in Dubai. This work consisted of shifting from manual meter reading to a smart metering system, which has lowered costs for customers, reduced carbon emissions, improved system reliability and increased customer satisfaction. The smart meters allow the company to collect data remotely, use advanced analytics to obtain efficient consumption, detect meter faults in real time, detect the root cause of any abnormal customer bills, be proactive about maintenance practices and enhance efficiency within their district cooling systems.

Ecosystem Energy also received an Honorable Mention for the Innovation Award for its comprehensive energy retrofit of Toronto’s City Waterfront Building. The three-story building is a mixed-use facility that houses educational, community, and recreational spaces, and the retrofit addresses energy consumption and environmental impact issues, while also supporting Toronto’s infrastructure needs. The project uses a lake-based hydrothermal system for heating and cooling that leverages Lake Ontario’s stable temperatures. The installation of a heat exchange system in the lake adjacent to the building uses the area’s natural resources for environmental benefit. Additionally, the system is projected to result in an 83% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and a 71% reduction in energy usage.

IDEA also celebrated Tom Nyquist, Executive Director of Engineering and Campus Energy at Princeton University, by awarding him the Norm Taylor Person of the Year Award. In 2024, Nyquist marked 37 years with Princeton, and this summer he will retire – leaving behind a legacy at Princeton that includes overseeing the transition of the university’s combined heat and power (CHP) plant to integrate a geo-exchange system that included the drilling of hundreds of boreholes on campus, while continuing operations to provide reliable heating, cooling and power to students, faculty and staff. 

Nyquist’s tenure at Princeton also included the installation of a 15-megawatt microgrid on campus, which helped the university become a place of refuge during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Princeton only lost power for approximately 20 minutes, while much of the surrounding area was without power for three days, until the grid was back online, giving emergency services workers such as police, firefighters and paramedics a staging ground and charging station for phones and equipment. After the storm passed, Nyquist and Princeton were at the center of the national conversation about energy resiliency and reliability.

And, last, but certainly not least – IDEA awarded Gold, Silver, and Bronze awards for the 2023 District Energy Space competition.  This year’s results build upon a more than decade-long trend of increasing adoption of district energy to reliably and efficiently deliver heating and cooling to buildings both here in the U.S. and around the globe.

The 2023 winners are:

Total Number of Buildings Added or Recommitted

North America:

o   Gold: CenTrio Eastern Michigan University

o   Silver: Cordia Minneapolis

o   Bronze: Vicinity Boston/Cambridge

Beyond North America:

o   Gold: Empower

o   Silver: National Central Cooling Company PJSC – Tabreed

o   Bronze: EMICOOL

Total Square Footage Added or Recommitted

North America:

o   Gold: Cordia Minneapolis

o   Silver: CenTrio Chicago

o   Bronze: Enwave Toronto

Beyond North America:

o   Gold: Empower

o   Silver: National Central Cooling Company PJSC – Tabreed

o   Bronze: EMICOOL

Since 1990, 2.8 billion square feet of building space have been added or renewed to district energy service by IDEA member systems, showing the incredible momentum and value of district energy to communities around the world over the last three decades.

You can read the full District Energy Space report for details on building names, types of use (i.e. commercial office space, hotel, etc.), location, services (heating, cooling, hot water) and square footage served, as well as summary insights on industry growth in North America and Beyond North America.