Delivering Reliable Thermal Energy to Kansas City
District energy is an innovative energy solution that involves the production of thermal energy, produced at a central plant(s) and distributed to buildings via an underground piping network. Fueled by clean-burning natural gas, the district energy system in Kansas City supplies both steam and chilled water to more than 4-million square feet of commercial space, including the Sprint Center, Bartle Hall, City Hall of Kansas City, Marriott Hotel and Truman Medical Center. Through combined heat and power (CHP), a process that recycles waste heat generated from electricity production and converts it into usable thermal energy, Vicinity is also reducing its customers’ carbon footprint while eliminating the system’s reliance on the electric grid. The 5-megawatts (MW) of electricity produced is used to power 100 percent of Vicinity’s Kansas City plant operations.
Vicinity in Kansas City
Beneath the streets is a labyrinth of steam and chilled water pipes that deliver efficient district heating and cooling to over 60 buildings in downtown Kansas City. Erected in 1904, the Grand Avenue Plant was originally designed to supply power for Kansas City’s first streetcars and streetlights. Over time, the district system was expanded, converted to steam and chilled water production and CHP technology was introduced. Used in space heating, domestic hot water, humidification, equipment sterilization and air conditioning, the innovative district energy system supplies 185 psig, 450°F steam and 33°F chilled water into a distribution system that services a wide variety of customers in downtown Kansas City.
Sustainable Technology, Fuel Use and Operations
Today in the Kansas City district, CHP is maximizing the transformation of fuel into energy and decreasing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by capturing waste heat that would otherwise be lost under conventional means. The district also eliminated its use of coal in 2017 and currently uses natural gas as its primary fuel source, resulting in GHG reductions equivalent to removing 36,000 cars from the road annually. We are continuously evaluating the economics of other low carbon energy sources, such as renewable electricity, hydrogen and storage.
District Energy benefits in Kansas City
Through district energy, individual buildings do not require their own boilers or furnaces, chillers or air conditioners – freeing up space for building amenities, eliminating onsite combustion, and reducing the customers’ risk, upfront capital commitment and ongoing operations and maintenance (O&M) costs. District energy also provides added benefits of improved energy efficiency, redundancy and reliability over self-generation.
I recommend Vicinity for three reasons: reliability, reduced maintenance costs and it makes budgeting simpler with no unexpected replacement costs or capital expenditures. We have buildings that use electric, some gas, others use steam for heating. When we compare costs among our facilities, Vicinity’s steam is by far the most economical.