Hidden under the streets, an underground network of piping has delivered steam to some of Grand Rapids’ premier institutions and businesses for over 120 years. Owned and operated by Vicinity Energy, our robust district energy system distributes 99.99% reliable thermal energy to over 100 customers in the central business district of Grand Rapids, including the Amway Grand Hotel, Devos Place Convention Center, Van Andel Research Institute and St. Mary’s Hospital. District energy is an innovative and resilient energy solution that involves the production of thermal energy from a central plant, eliminating the need to install or manage onsite boilers and chillers. District energy also offers our customers a green energy alternative and is responsible for lowering the city’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by over 11,000 tons annually.
Vicinity in Grand Rapids
Vicinity tackles global energy problems on a local level, with local resources. In Grand Rapids, Vicinity’s district energy system distributes resilient and sustainable thermal energy used for space heating and cooling, domestic hot and chilled water, humidification, and sterilization to hospitals, biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, universities, hotel and entertainment venues, commercial and residential space, and government complexes and civic centers.
Green Steam Investments for a Cleaner Future
Vicinity has invested more than $10 million in improving Grand Rapids’ resilient energy infrastructure, resulting in decreased fossil fuel consumption, lower cost per pound of steam produced and a reduction of annual GHG emissions by more than 11,000 tons — the equivalent of removing nearly 2,400 cars from the roads per year. Key upgrades include:
- Installing a condensing economizer in the steam plant to recover waste heat and improve efficiency and a steam turbine generator to generate power for plant operations
- Replacing low-pressure distribution pipes with efficient, high-pressure lines
- New, high-efficiency boiler feed pumps and boiler control upgrades to improve efficiency and responsiveness to changes in demand
- Electrical switchgear upgrades and installation of back-up power generation capacity to ensure steam service during electrical grid outages
- Water system upgrades and installation of a rainwater and snowmelt collection system that recycles water for use in our water treatment process
- Inspection and re-insulation of manholes to improve distribution efficiency
- Technology upgrades enabling remote monitoring of customer facilities from our Grand Rapids Control Center
And we’re not stopping there — Vicinity’s Clean Energy Future is a formalized commitment, vision and roadmap to achieve net zero carbon by 2050.
District Energy Benefits in Grand Rapids
In addition to improving Grand Rapids’ critical energy infrastructure and reducing the region’s carbon footprint, with district energy, individual buildings don’t require onsite equipment — freeing up space for building amenities, eliminating the risk of onsite combustion, and reducing upfront capital and ongoing operations and maintenance (O&M) costs. Further, you get the peace of mind that comes with Vicinity’s 99.99% reliable energy delivery. Our interconnected central facilities have built-in redundancy, back-up generation and multiple water and fuel sources. So regardless of what’s going on in Grand Rapids, you can rely on district energy to keep you up and running.