National Western Center to source clean energy from wastewater
- New district energy system will heat and cool buildings with recycled thermal energy from nearby pipeline, in pursuit of a low-carbon campus
- When complete, it will be the largest sewer-heat-recovery system in North America
Denver, Colorado – The future National Western Center campus will source nearly 90 percent of its heating and cooling from an underground sewer pipeline — a recycled source of thermal energy — through an agreement with EAS Energy Partners. When complete, the 3.8-megawatt (MW) system will be the largest sewer-heat recovery system in North America. The benefits of the system include reduced greenhouse gas emissions, energy efficiency of buildings and improved air quality and health.
Under construction now, the National Western Center will be a year-round, global destination for agriculture and food innovation, western heritage and culture, opening in north Denver in 2024. Its master plan envisioned a sustainable, low-carbon campus with ambitious goals for clean energy.
The custom design uses both sewer-heat recovery and a district energy approach. Sewer-heat recovery pulls thermal energy from wastewater instead of burning natural gas. Using this system, the 250-acre campus will avoid emitting an estimated 2,600 metric tons of carbon (CO2) per year — the emissions equivalent of driving a car 6.6 million miles — and will promote better air quality and health for the surrounding neighborhoods. District energy systems pump warm or cool water via a closed-loop network of pipes from a central plant to a group of buildings, instead of each building having its own boilers and chillers. The results are high efficiency, lower capital costs, and a reliable and resilient energy source during outages.
“We made a promise to be at the forefront of sustainability, and we’re delivering,” National Western Center CEO Brad Buchanan said. “Knowing we’ll have to heat and cool our buildings one way or another, we chose an innovative, clean-energy system that virtually makes something from nothing.”
EAS Energy Partners (EAS) is led by Enwave, a global district energy leader, and also includes AECOM Technical Services and Denver-based Saunders Construction. Collectively, EAS brings proven industry expertise across all phases of district energy project delivery.
Seven buildings will use the system initially, with capacity to expand over time. They include three owned by the City and County of Denver, three buildings comprising the CSU Spur campus, and the National Western Stock Show’s Legacy Building. The National Western Center Authority, which operates the campus, will pay for the system over 40 years with event revenue and monthly energy bills from system users. The system is being delivered at a cost comparable in the long run to traditional natural gas systems, with grant support from the Metro Wastewater Reclamation District and the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment.
“We believe in the power of more sustainable cities, and we know working with partners such as the National Western Center with a shared commitment to climate action and innovation is the key to building this future,” said Doug Castleberry, president and chief operating officer, Enwave USA. “Our sewer heat recovery technology will enable the campus to meet its ambitious clean energy goals. This a testament to Enwave’s capacity to develop innovative, resilient and financially feasible low-carbon solutions.”
Cities generate more than 70 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The City and County of Denver’s climate action plan calls for reducing or preventing emissions. The National Western Center and its partners are committed to creating a sustainable campus and being part of the climate solution.
“As the construction arm of the project, the Mayor’s Office of the National Western Center (NWCO) is dedicated to building a campus that is sustainable, resilient and that furthers the city’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions and fighting climate change locally,” said Tykus Holloway, executive director of NWCO. “This will be the first ever sewer‐heat recovery energy system in Denver and will be a model for other places aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
How it Works
Used water that goes down the drains of our showers, sinks, tubs, dishwashers, washing machines and toilets maintains a fairly constant temperature as it travels through the sewer pipe. In a sewer heat recovery system, a heat pump is used to capture the warmth of wastewater and transfer it to a clean water distribution pipe that enters individual buildings. It is a closed-loop system, meaning the wastewater never touches the clean water. The wastewater flows back into the sewer; the heat is transferred to the clean water loop that heats and cools the buildings.
EAS will build and operate the system. To do so, crews will bury the aboveground Metro Wastewater Reclamation District sewer pipeline that runs alongside the South Platte River. Burying the pipe will open up recreational open space for all to enjoy, and will substantively reduce odors from the p
Construction on the system will begin this summer. The system will be complete in 2022, and the broader campus will be complete in 2024. Learn more about the energy system at nationalwesterncenter.com/energy.
About the National Western Center
The National Western Center is a year-round, global destination for ag and food innovation, western heritage and culture that will open in Denver in 2024. We will convene the world at the National Western Center and at nationalwesterncenter.com to lead, inspire, create, educate and entertain in pursuit of global food solutions.