Case Studies

Many of the links to the sources listed below are external to IDEA's control. Should any links be expired, please contact idea@districtenergy.org and let us know.  Many thanks!


1. Beyond North America

Europe overall


  • Danish Board of District Heating (DBDH) - this site gives access to more than 100 articles concerning district heating - production, distribution, consumption, biomass, solar etc. - and further more gives the possibility for the readers to subscribe for the magazine HOT|COOl free of charge




2. North America—Canada

More Canadian Case Studies

3. North America—USA

Community Energy Development (IDEA Publication with various dase examples)


Ball State University's Geothermal Wellfield Will Heat and Cool Its Buildings

December 4, 2009 from WFIU

In northeastern Indiana, environmentalists are closely watching a project on a scale that hasn't been attempted before in the United States. Ball State University is constructing the largest geothermal heating and cooling system of its kind - and promises to cut its carbon emissions in half.

Here's how it works: A few dozen feet below the Earth's surface, the temperature is between 52 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Depending on the time of year, geothermal systems use the Earth's temperature as a heat source - or sink - by sending water through miles of pipes and concentrating it to meet the temperature the thermostat calls for.

Ball State is attempting to use more than 660 acres to heat and cool nearly 50 buildings.

Catawba County, North Carolina

Catawba County, North Carolina has been producing electricity from landfill gas (LFG) since 1999. The County plans to convert their municipal waste, wood waste, and other indigenous biomass into energy. Interview of Barry Edwards, the County's Director of Engineering & Utilities, by CNN's Reynolds Wolf, August 9, 2009.

Co-Op City, Bronx, NY

Co-op City, sited next to the Hutchinson River in the Baychester section of the borough of the Bronx, New York, is the largest single residential development in the United States. The 340-acre complex is home to about 60,000 people who occupy 15,372 residential units in 35 high-rise buildings and seven townhouse clusters. It was built in stages from 1966 to 1973. The reconstruction of its central district energy plant from 2004-2007 resulted in a robust, combined heat and power (CHP) facility that operated flawlessly during Hurricane Sandy in October, 2012 and produces annual revenues of $15-25 million from the sale of excess electricity to Con Edison. 

  • Case study (from Combined Cycle Journal, 4Q-2007)

Eastern Illinois University

Around the turn of the century, Eastern Illinois University was amidst an ongoing conversation with the state legislature aimed at working out a solution for its rapidly failing coal steam plant. That facility, which opened in 1928, was a primarily coal-burning operation; two of its four boilers burned coal, while the backup boilers burned natural gas and fuel oil. With a replacement absolutely necessary to the future of the university and no financial support from the state or federal government, another solution became imperative.

Feasibility studies showed a cost of $75-150 million for a replacement coal facility, and coal's ever-growing list of environmental downfalls had made it a less-than-attractive energy source. With those factors in mind, it became clear an alternative fuel source was the best option. A new biomass-burning facility, with a price tag in the neighborhood of $55 million, became the new plan.

Under the umbrella of an $80 million performance contract, awarded to Honeywell International in 2008, ground was broken in 2009 for the new facility.  Eastern's old steam plant burned its last coal on Dec. 14, 2010, and the grand opening of the new facility was celebrated on Friday, Oct. 7, 2011.

Eastern's Renewable Energy Center houses four boilers. Two boilers burn biomass -- any biological material from wood chips to switchgrass  -- while the others burn natural gas with a fuel oil backup. EIU's campus energy needs can be met by running any two of the four boilers.

The system provides 100% of campus heating needs and satisfies about 10% of its electrical demand, while reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by about 80 percent.

Empire State Building, New York City, NY

The Clinton Climate Initiative, Rocky Mountain Institute, Johnson Controls, ConEdison and engineering consultants Jones Lang LaSalle are retrofitting the Empire State Building in New York City to improve its energy efficiency by a projected 38%.

The 102-story Empire State Building was constructed in one year and 45 days and served as the world's tallest building for 40 years. It has been a venue for more than 90 motion pictures. Its 2.5 million-sq-ft have been served by the district energy system operated by the Steam Business Unit of Consolidated Edison of New York since 1929 and today uses steam for air conditioning. The system was named IDEA's System of the Year in 2000.

Medical Area Total Energy Plant (MATEP), Boston and Cambridge, Mass.

This system owned and operated by Veolia North America, generates 48 megawatts of efficient CHP capacity and serves 250 customers in the central business district of Boston, the biotechnology corridor of Cambridge, and the Longwood Medical Area (Medical Area Total Energy Plant [MATEP]), site of the world famous Harvard University Medical School and teaching hospitals including Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Dana Farber Cancer Center, and the Beth Israel Deaconess Health Center. Customer sectors served include biotechnology leaders in Cambridge, pharmaceutical leaders in Cambridge, 70% of the high-rise office buildings in Boston, all large healthcare facilities in Boston, as well as some Boston hotels and universities.

Peppermill Resort in Reno, Nevada Is Heated by On-Site Geothermal Well

The four-Diamond Peppermill Resort has converted completely from natural-gas boilers to geothermal heat. The 2.2 million sq ft facility is heated by a hydronic hot water system derived from on-site wells, including one well 4,421 feet deep in one of its parking lots that came on line in 2010.

Enwave Seattle Is Burning Biomass

Since launching its biomass fuel system in 2010, Enwave Seattle (formerly Seattle Steam), founded in 1893 as a safe heat supply shortly after the 1889 Great Seattle Fire leveled every building on this street, is being considered as a model for efficient, renewable energy for the future. Public Radio Station KUOW's Ann Dornfeld reports, with interviews of Stan Gent, President of Seattle Steam and Seattle City Council President Richard Conlin.

Sonoma Wine Company in Grafton, California

Sonoma Wine Company, a major bottler of California wines in Grafton, California, installed a hybrid solar array from Cogenra that generates both electricity and hot water in one system. The system has reduced the facility's natural gas needs by 45% and allowed expansion of the operation without increasing energy requirements.

Texas A&M's New Power Generation System Saving $Thousands Daily In Operating Costs

COLLEGE STATION, Aug. 11, 2011 - Savings of thousands of dollars per day and major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are being achieved by Texas A&M University through operation of its new combined heat and power (CHP) generation system.

University officials say the new system came on line at a particularly opportune time, with the need for reliable power State-wide at an all-time high and as the campus community copes with effects of the current heat wave.

More than $250,000 in cost was avoided in the first week that the new system became operational Aug. 1, notes James G. Riley, Texas A&M's director for utilities and energy management. Cost-avoidance reflects what the institution would have had to pay for power provided by off-campus sources if it had to be purchased during peak load periods.

"The cost avoidance allows the university to maximize institutional funding in support of teaching, research, improvement of facilities, and other programs," Riley points out.

He says the CHP system now produces 50 to 75 percent of campus requirements, thus significantly reducing the need to purchase supplemental power from off campus. The university can even be a supplier of power when its on-campus production exceeds requirements-a likely scenario in winter months when heating requirements are high and power requirements are not at peak levels, he adds.

"This CHP project is a major investment by the university that will provide operational, financial and environmental benefits for many years to come," Riley observes.

"In addition to reducing energy consumption and cost by 20 percent, the new CHP system will also reduce energy-related greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent, allowing Texas A&M to provide great leadership in the field of energy optimization and sustainability," he adds.

Riley says the new installation at the university's central utility plant will provide up to 50 megawatts of reliable power generation while reducing overall energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. He indicates that optimal use of energy is even more important with the added demand for energy from several new facilities on campus.

"The new CHP system, together with other utility infrastructure improvements recently completed, places Texas A&M in the top tier of universities, with some of the most modern, efficient, and reliable central utility production facilities in the nation," he says.

The $73.25 million system is designed to operate for the next 30 years, providing reliable power and thermal energy on the institution's 5,200-acre campus that serves almost 60,000 students, faculty and staff. The campus includes 22 million gross square feet of facilities, which represents an increase of 22 percent since 2002, supporting teaching and the university's $630 million annual research programs.

A $10 million U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) grant helped defray CHP construction costs. Texas A&M was only one of nine DOE grant recipients nation-wide out of 450 applicants for this highly sought-after funding that was awarded based on overall project merit.

"Projected efficiency-related cost avoidance resulting from the CHP installation will offset all debt incurred with the project," Riley explains. "While the energy cost avoidance is significant, meaningful environmental benefits are also being achieved. The reduced energy consumption on campus results in lower greenhouse gas emissions, reducing energy dependence, and helping create a more sustainable environment," he adds.

"In addition to the financial and environmental benefits, the new CHP generation upgrade provides the university the capability to serve a significant portion of the total campus power requirement in the event of an interruption of service from the incoming campus power supply," he explains. "The CHP project helps ensure that the balance of purchased and on-site produced power is optimized for both reliability and efficiency."

Riley points out this CHP investment continues a tradition started in 1893 with Texas A&M self-generating both electrical power and steam for the institution. The CHP project includes the installation of two turbine generators, two boilers, and extensive mechanical and electrical system improvements, replacing equipment that was well beyond its useful life.

Texas Medical Center in Houston, Texas Completes Largest District Cooling System in U.S.

On May 17, 2011, Burns & McDonnell completed work on a $377 million expansion project that makes Thermal Energy Corp. (TECO)'s district cooling system the largest in the U.S. The expansion is phase one of TECO's Master Plan Implementation Project to meet the growing cooling and heating needs of the rapidly expanding Texas Medical Center, the world's largest medical complex. The project's completion is being marked today at a ceremony in TECO's recently completed East Chiller Building that houses the company's newest cooling capacity.

Projected to save TECO and its customers more than $200 million over the next 15 years, the expansion included installing a 48-megawatt (MW) combined heat and power (CHP) unit (dedicated in August 2010) and adding 32,000 tons of new chiller capacity; an 8.8 million-gallon stratified thermal energy storage tank; distribution piping; and a new operations support facility featuring a state-of-the-art control room. The company now has 120,000 tons of cooling capacity, which is enough to cool the equivalent of 30,000 homes.

University of California San Diego

UCSD's dual-gas turbine cogeneration plant produces electricity and steam at 75% efficiency, and is saving about $250,000 a month by generating its own electricity instead of buying it.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign--Abbott Power Plant

Abbott Power Plant has provided heat and electricity to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus since 1940. Its combined heat and power (CHP) process enables it to generate heat and electricity from the same amount of fuel, making it nearly twice as efficient as a large utility plant.

University of Massachusetts at Amherst

April 06, 2009-The new central heating plant at UMass Amherst is a $127 million co-generation facility, fueled by natural gas and oil. It replaces an obsolete, coal-burning facility built in the 1940s, and significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

In this informal video, Jim Cahill, director of facilities and campus planning, leads a tour of the building as workers prepared it for full operation in Summer 2008. Toward the end of the video, he projects that the new plant will produce total heat and power savings of $1 million per month for the University.

University of Massachusetts Medical Center, Worcester, Mass.

The facility's combined heat and power district energy system provides most of the electricity, all of the steam and all of the chilled water (10,000 Tons capacity) to three campuses, totalling about 3 million sq ft of building area on 60 acres of land. The facility operates in parallel with the grid, and is tied into the grid. A new, $47 million CHP system, including a 14,000 sq ft building housing a Solar Turbine Taurus 70 gas turbine, genset and HRSG with duct-firing was recently installed, which provides 60,000 lbs of steam and 7.5 MW of electricity and is tied into the preexisting CHP system.

University of Texas at Austin

One of the largest public universities in the U.S., the University of Texas at Austin, its combined heat and power (CHP) plant has produced 100% of the electricity used on campus since 1929. The plant cogenerates steam, which is piped throughout the campus. District cooling is provided by four additional plants, optimized by a chilled water storage tank. Investments in energy efficiency improvements saved about $170 million worth of energy between 1996 and 2008. Its highly efficient CHP system has enabled UT Austin to achieve carbon-neutral growth. Additional projects scheduled for completion in 2010 will return the campus to 1977 consumption and emissions levels, even though the campus has added 7 million square feet of building space since then. (See also additional Case History listed below)

UT Austin's Carl J Eckhardt Heating and Power Complex

The University of Texas at Austin (UT) began a major expansion of campus utilities back in the mid-1990s. Today, the Utilities & Energy Management Dept (UEMD) provides all of the heating, cooling, and electric service for university's 18 million ft2 of conditioned space. With 50,000 students and 20,000 staff, think of the challenge as supplying the comfort for a small city.

U.S. Capitol Power Plant

The Capitol Power Plant (CPP) has been in existence since 1910, serving the needs of Congress and Capitol Hill by providing the steam and chilled water needed to heat and cool nearly 18 million square feet of space. Cogeneration, also known as combined heat and power, allows for the production of two sources of energy-steam and power-from one fuel source, natural gas. Installing cogeneration will increase reliability, improve efficiency and help save taxpayer money.

Veterans Administration Hospital Geothermal District Heating System, Boise, Idaho

The Veterans Administration Hospital is located on the northeast side of Boise, Idaho, in Ada County of southwestern Idaho.
Boise is located along the northern margin of the northwest trending topographic depression known as the Western Snake River Plain. Wells in the area have water temperature ranging from about 27°C to 77°C (80°F to 170°F).

The Veterans Administration drilled a production well in 1983 that proved capable of producing up to 78.5 L/s (1245 gpm) during a pump test. Temperature of the production well was 71.7°C (161°F). An injection well was drilled in 1987 and the system was brought online in 1988.
Six of the 30 buildings are connected directly to the geothermal water supply while the remaining 24 are connected via a central loop. Maximum required flow is about 70 L/s (1,100 gpm) while average consumption is approximately 38 L/s (600 gpm).Summer use, which is primarily for heating domestic hot water, averages 12.6 L/s (200 gpm).

Older Case Studies of Universities

(click to download case
study as PDF)

Highlights of Case Study
Cornell University
  • Lake source cooling as a creative and cost-effective way to update cooling system
  • Community involvement and outreach essential and key to project success
  • Reduced fuel consumption and emissions and other environmental benefits
  • Significant financial savings and return on investment
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • On-campus cogeneration stabilizes electricity costs and increases reliability 
  • Dispute with local utility over stranded costs and customer transition charges
  • Significant financial savings and emissions reductions from new technology
Princeton University
  • Cogeneration helps stabilize electrical costs
  • Overcoming (and preventing) bottlenecks in the permitting process
  • Contracts critical for mid-stream vendor changes through mergers and acquisitions
  • Working with a changing university administration
Texas A&M
  • Facility and energy demand growth is projected to 2042.
  • Energy Stewardship Program will help to improve overall EUI by 20%
  • Energy use is projected to drop from 364 mBtu/GSF in 2002 to 190 mBtu/GSF by cost avoidance, improved plant efficiency and building energy use.
University of California Los Angeles
  • Incorporation of landfill gas (LFG) in the fuel mix adds flexibility and turns waste gas into an inexpensive fuel source
  • Significant emissions reductions and energy savings
  • Innovative financing approach to make project financially attractive to investors
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Coal-fired cogeneration meets campus energy needs 
  • Coal as a "clean" fuel
  • Community outreach critical to success
  • Significant emissions reductions result from project
University of Pennsylvania
  • Operational practices and new campus policies help conserve electricity and steam
  • Significant savings come from avoided costs and monitoring
  • Large-scale emissions reductions achieved
University of Texas at Austin
  • Cogeneration enhances utility reliability and economy 
  • Redundancy planned in the system design ensures reliability
  • Proper planning and investment to stay ahead of significant short-term campus growth
  • Treatment options for condensate return considered


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