District Energy St. Paul, Combined Heat and Power Plant

The process of designing a new co-generation plant adjacent to the current District Energy coal fired heating and cooling plant on a prominent site on downtown St. Paul’s riverfront demanded a open-ended design process that was inclusive of neighbors, interested community members and leaders, the Saint Paul on the Mississippi Design Center and City officials.

The addition is clad in copper, corrugated metal panel, steel and brick. The very rigid industrial process that occurs within the plant dictated the collage composition of the building’s exterior skin. The changing nature of the copper exterior cladding will allow the interpretation and re-interpretation of the building to continue for many years into the future.

The addition to District Energy’s plant for the Combined Heat and Power (CHP) project combines three functions: an electrical plant, a heating plant and a cooling plant. Fuel for creating energy comes entirely from urban wood waste – tree trimmings, scrap lumber, storm debris, etc. This means less pollution, reduced reliance on fossil fuel, and a more plentiful supply of fuel that results in cheaper energy for the city. Upon its completion in 2003, this was the largest waste wood fired combined heat and power plant in an urban area throughout the United States.

The CHP project was also an opportunity to support community objectives for the river. The plant is located on the edge of the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River and Harriet Island Park, within the City of St. Paul’s Riverfront Redevelopment Corridor. To its west is the Science Museum of Minnesota; to the plant’s east, the former West Publishing building is under consideration for redevelopment. To its immediate north are the historic St. Paul Public Library and the downtown core of Saint Paul – all of which is served by the CHP plant. District Energy has been located on this site for more than 25 years; it not only occupies a prominent position in the future of the city physically – it also serves as its heart in that it provides heating, cooling and electric power to much of St. Paul.

Location: St. Paul, Minnesota
Completion date: 2003
Architect of Record: Ellerbe Becket

Mic Johnson was Design Principal for the District Energy Combined Heat & Power Plant while with Ellerbe Becket