Denver Seeks Energy Developers for Microgrid at Planned $1B National Western Center

May 4, 2018
Denver continues to forge ahead with sustainable energy projects, this time with release of a solicitation seeking microgrid developers for the $1 billion National Western Center (NWC).

Denver continues to forge ahead with sustainable energy projects, this time with release of a solicitation seeking microgrid developers for the $1 billion National Western Center (NWC).

Denver Mayor Michael Hitchcock says the NWC seeks to pioneer innovative sustainability strategies

The city and county have issued a request for qualifications (RFQ) for energy developers to help design, build, operate and maintain the microgrid, which includes a district energy system.

The NWC microgrid comes on the heels of Denver’s Peña Station NEXT microgrid, which offers energy for a transit station built as a connector between downtown and the Denver International Airport. That microgrid anchors the energy infrastructure for what  eventually is expected to be a 382-acre smart energy community.

With an initial, estimated peak demand of 4.4 MW, the NWC energy project will be built on 250 acres that incorporates the historic National Western Stock Show and the 1909 Stadium Arena, which is undergoing renovation.

Denver is expanding and modernizing an existing 91-acre seasonal site via a multi-phased plan to construct a $1 billion, three million-square-foot, year-round tourism, event, education and agricultural  center. The new facility is expected to double its customer visits to about 2.2 million per year.

Part of city’s green ambitions

Denver has set a greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal of 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050, and sees the project as another step in that effort.

The city also has established strong clean energy goals for the western center, itself, including LEED Gold Certification and net zero or even positive energy status. 

“Building a low-carbon campus is one of the many ways the National Western Center is seeking to pioneer innovative sustainability strategies,” Mayor Michael Hancock said. “By utilizing renewable resources already on-site, we’ll be able to minimize carbon emissions while developing a responsible and sustainable campus for the community today and for future generations.”

The western center will be built in three phases, Phase 1 & 2, plus what’s called The Triangle, a 60-acre expansion planned for future date.

4.4 MW peak demand

Energy requirements for The Triangle have yet to be determined. But for Phase I & 2 total energy demand is expected to be 14,467,838 kWh with electric demand of 13,087,863 kWh (4,412 kW peak). Heat demand is forecast to be 50,177 kBtu/hour; cooling demand 31, 548 kBtu/hour; and gas demand  823 kBtu/hour.

Denver plans to incorporate an energy system into the NWC project that maintains a basic level of microgrid service in isolation from the grid, such as during a utility outage, and will include:

  • A sewer heat recovery system including the pumps, screening, heat exchangers, distribution piping and central utility plant building
  • Distributed HVAC systems within each building
  • Campus solar photovoltaics (PV) located on each building rooftop and within the campus or with some solar PV located offsite
  • Potential for energy storage or biofuel generators used for campus load management and demand response programs

“Our hope is that the National Western Center, upon completion, will be one of the largest campuses powered entirely by renewable energy sources,” said Gretchen Hollrah, executive director of the Mayor’s NWC office.

Denver plans to short list up to four microgrid developers through the RFQ. The chosen companies will be invited to participate in a request for proposals, planned for June. The eventual winner will develop, design, engineer, construct, fund, operate and maintain the integrated campus energy system for the center.

A new authority — the  National Western Center Authority — will operate the new campus. The energy partner will recover its investment and operating costs made in the project via a negotiated rate paid by the authority.

The chosen energy partner will manage energy risk for the facility, both electric and thermal, and work with the local utility on any right-of-way conflicts.

Responses from microgrid developers due June 3

The city expects the energy project to be complete by February 2022 with the district energy system online, providing service to the NWC Campus facilities.

RFQ responses are due June 3 by 9 pm MDT. The city expects to choose a short list of microgrid developers by June 15, issue an RFP in June, choose a winner in August, and have a project pre-development agreement in place by September, with a full campus energy agreement in second quarter of 2019.

The city will host a voluntary pre-proposal meeting 10 to 11:30 am, May 11 in the Webb Municipal Building, 201 W. Colfax Ave., Denver, CO 80202 from on first floor in room 1.B.6.

More information is available at: www.rockymountainbidsystem.com (28702_2018) or by calling 1-800-835-4603. Supporting documents are here.

The energy project was initially outlined under a 10-year master plan the city adopted in early 2015. Later that year voters approved initial funding for the project, including increased car rental and lodging taxes. The site will double as a city park, with plans for environmental cleanup, infrastructure improvements and a revitalization of the bordering South Platte Riverfront.

The city is providing primary financing for the western center, in partnership with the Western Stock Show Association, which has run the annual stock show and rodeo on the site for 111 years, and Colorado State University, which hopes to create an agriculture innovation center and other projects on the campus.

The NWC is a partnership between the City and County of Denver, Colorado State University, Western Stock Show Association, History Colorado and Denver Museum and Nature and Science.

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About the Author

Elisa Wood | Editor-in-Chief

Elisa Wood is an award-winning writer and editor who specializes in the energy industry. She is chief editor and co-founder of Microgrid Knowledge and serves as co-host of the publication’s popular conference series. She also co-founded RealEnergyWriters.com, where she continues to lead a team of energy writers who produce content for energy companies and advocacy organizations.

She has been writing about energy for more than two decades and is published widely. Her work can be found in prominent energy business journals as well as mainstream publications. She has been quoted by NPR, the Wall Street Journal and other notable media outlets.

“For an especially readable voice in the industry, the most consistent interpreter across these years has been the energy journalist Elisa Wood, whose Microgrid Knowledge (and conference) has aggregated more stories better than any other feed of its time,” wrote Malcolm McCullough, in the book, Downtime on the Microgrid, published by MIT Press in 2020.

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