Duluth Energy Systems is the city-owned steam district energy system that has provided the Canal Park and Central Business Districts with stable, reliable heat since 1932. The system provides heating to 164 buildings and cooling to five buildings in Canal Park and downtown Duluth. This legacy system is still primarily steam-based, with a smaller hot water loop serving the Canal Park district. The plant is currently fuel flexible with the ability to use coal or natural gas, with potential for biomass commingling with the solid fuel boiler. In 2012, Ever-Green worked with the City of Duluth create a framework for the future of this system, starting with the steam-to-hot-water transition of the distribution system, beginning with 16 blocks of Superior Street in 2017.
The City of Duluth has made its energy future a priority and has seized opportunities to work within the community, with its utilities, and in collaboration with experts from around the country to integrate state-of-the-art technology and international best practices for an efficient, cost-effective, and environmentally advanced system.
Ever-Green Energy’s Role: Ever-Green serves as the system operator and manager. Ever-Green is supporting the City in their effort to gain community support and state funding for system upgrades. This project has engaged experts and supporters from within and beyond Duluth, including state commissioners, city councilors, and executives from the business, energy, environmental communities who believe in Duluth’s grand energy vision.
Ever-Green works closely with the City of Duluth while we operate and manage this community energy system. Our team has guided the system through enhancements to the system’s operational and maintenance processes, including inventory management, operating and maintenance crew structure, work planning, performance monitoring, and trending of key parameters. Ever-Green reviewed the debt financing of the system and recommended changes, which enabled the system to enter into long-term contracts with customers and use revenue bonds for future debt financings. Recent areas of technical focus have included customer development, efficiency improvements, carbon reduction (through reduction of coal, plant and distribution improvements), steam to hot water transition, and future renewable integration.
- Critical upgrades to Duluth Energy Systems − switching from steam to more efficient hot water and creating additional opportunities for proven technologies such as waste heat recovery and combined heat and power.
- Helping Duluth building owners meet high standards for energy efficiency.
- Integration of renewable energy that supports the local forest industry.
- Utilize the system upgrade as an opportunity to grow the system and provide benefits back to current users, as well as extending the services to new users, promoting overall economic development opportunities.
- 1932 system start-up.
- 1979 change of ownership, the City of Duluth purchased the system.
- 2012 Ever-Green was selected to serve as the operations and management team.
- 2013 Ever-Green completed a comprehensive plan to modernize the energy system in a cost-effective manner that meets the current and future needs of users.
- 2015 Duluth Steam transitioned to the new name Duluth Energy Systems and unveiled a set of goals to modernize the system and advance a grand energy vision for Duluth.
- 2016 a bonding request was made to the State of Minnesota for matching funds to support the system transformation to coincide with the large public works project to rebuild Superior Street. Ever-Green begins design and engineering for the project.
Technologies Implemented: Steam and hot water district heating, district cooling, absorption cooling, biomass, waste heat recovery.