A District Energy network is a major contributor to campus and civic sustainability goals since it combines the energy needs of many buildings together, thus allowing an economy of scale that facilitates an investment in more efficient and sustainable energy technologies that would not be feasible on an individual basis.
- District Energy increases reliability and interconnected redundancy of energy utilities serving campus and urban community with electricity and thermal energy (steam, hot water and chilled water for heating and cooling buildings.)
- District Energy systems that include generation of emergency power increase service reliability to critical functions during emergencies.
- Thermal Energy Storage (TES) can reduce electricity loads during peak hours of use, by producing and storing thermal energy in off-peak times. This is particularly important during increased loads for summer cooling to avoid network stresses or “brown outs”.
- Because District Energy systems often use a primary energy source and a back-up energy of a different type for redundancy (e.g. natural gas backed up by fuel oil), they also have the opportunities of using alternative energy sources (e.g. geo-thermal, bio-fuel, and other renewable and potential future energy sources.)
- Storm water management is often of critical importance to maintain non-interrupted service of District Energy systems. This need can stimulate planning and development of effective storm water management systems far beyond the district system location.
Greenhouse Gas Reduction and Air Quality Improvements
- The large capacity, highly energy efficient equipment used in District Energy systems can significantly reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions for a given campus, with measurable air quality improvements and economic benefits.
- Meanwhile, several supplemental methods for additional CO2 reductions are being tested and employed at District Energy Plant locations. (Note: The CO2 intake method developed in Switzerland that discharges CO2 to nearby greenhouses, and sells excess to carbonated beverage manufacture; The in-stack CO2 intake method developed in Norway, that harvests CO2 for sequestration; etc. These were both included in our Taiwan Competition entry.)
Environmental Noise Reduction
- District Energy plants take the noisy equipment that otherwise might be located within and on top of buildings throughout the campus and consolidates this noise at a single location where special abatement methods can be accommodated.
- Noise reduction to acceptable levels is achieved through careful location of building openings, use of large sound attenuating ducts, acoustic glass where used at building perimeter, high performance acoustic building envelopes, interior sound absorption, additional enclosure of noisiest equipment like turbines and reciprocating engines.
- Special consideration for the location of exterior and rooftop equipment is needed, and this manufactured equipment should include lower sound emission criteria in specifications, as quietness at the source is critical. Additional acoustic sound baffles, screening, parapets, or sound walls can be used where needed.
- Because of moderate remaining noise levels after mitigation, co-location adjacent or near housing with operable windows should be avoided.
Urban Land Use and Compatibility
- District Energy benefits from central energy plants located in rather close proximity to the buildings and urban communities it serves. This location reduces distribution costs and allows connection with other networks to further strengthen resiliency.
- In centrally located urban District Energy plants land costs are often high and suggest compact building forms, these can even include high-rise construction where needed.
- Urban plant locations require good service truck access, but generally with limited onsite parking. Interior service drive through lanes can double as equipment maintenance and removal areas.
- District Energy systems may allow remote central operation and control of several plants.
- Because of their generally large size, District Energy plants often can be co-located near athletic facilities. Co-location with Business uses can be compatible. Because of moderate remaining noise levels after mitigation, co-location adjacent or very near housing with operable windows should be avoided.
- Very large Regional District Energy Electrical power plants may best be located near, but outside of the urban core. Because of the increased need for land, service connections, onsite storage and even housing, these may resemble industrial villages.
- Storm water management requirements for resiliency allow the opportunity for protection and increased diversity of native plantings to support diverse wildlife.
- Tidal management requirements may allow the opportunity for protection and increased diversity of native plantings to support wildlife including migratory birds.
- Public access to these water management areas, even if limited, can increase the public support of these necessary large installations.