National Western Center to Source Recycled Thermal Energy to Meet Clean Energy Goals

In pursuit of its long-term goal of becoming a net-zero energy campus, the future National Western Center announced this week that it 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.

Sewer pipeline

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 is led by Enwave, a global district energy leader, and also includes AECOM Technical Services and Denver-based Saunders Construction.

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.”

Construction on the system will begin this summer. The system will be complete in 2022, and the broader campus will be complete in 2024.

Photos courtesy of National Western Center

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