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Largest wastewater heat recovery system in US launches in Denver

The new system will heat and cool buildings with recycled thermal energy from a nearby wastewater pipeline.

DENVER — The largest wastewater heat recovery system in the United States has been launched at the National Western Center (NWC).

NWC said the system is part of its goal to create a low-carbon campus that’s sustainable and regenerative.

"We made a promise to be at the forefront of sustainability, and we're delivering," said National Western Center CEO Brad Buchanan. "Knowing we have to heat and cool our buildings one way or another, we chose an innovative, clean-energy system that’s both beneficial for our campus but also for our community."

NWC said the wastewater system is housed in an 8,790-square-foot central utility plant constructed of a pre-engineered metal building. In order to build the system, the City and County of Denver’s construction team had to bury a 72-inch wastewater pipeline that once ran alongside the South Platte River, removing its odors and opening up recreational space.

Here's how the wastewater heat recovery system works:

  1. Used water goes down the drains of showers, sinks, bathtubs, dishwashers, washing machines and toilets and travels through a main sewer pipeline.
  2. Within the NWC's wastewater heat recovery system, a plate and frame heat exchanger captures the warmth of that wastewater and transfers it to a clean water distribution pipe.
  3. The distribution pipe enters into individual buildings using a closed-loop system (clean water never touches wastewater) and harnesses the energy from the system to heat and cool the buildings.
Credit: National Western Center

The system was designed, built and will be operated by EAS Energy Partners (EAS), through an agreement with the NWC.

EAS is comprised of core-competency district energy operator CenTrio, AECOM Technical Services Inc., and Colorado-based Saunders Construction.

"The District Energy System exemplifies the City’s commitment to innovation, sustainability, and resiliency," said Tykus Holloway, Executive Director for the Mayor’s Office of the NWC and City and County of Denver. "This system will serve as a model for other cities and help to educate and promote clean energy solutions."

Credit: National Western Center

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