Pioneering the Future: Transforming Fort Worden’s Campus through Innovative District Energy Systems

Originally featured on the Fort Worden Port Townsend news section.

Fort Worden Life Long Learning Center, July 5, 2023

Did you know that every year, buildings worldwide consume nearly 40% of the planet's total energy? That's enough power to fuel our wildest imaginations and spark a quest for more sustainable solutions. Enter district energy systems, the superheroes of energy efficiency, here to revolutionize the way we heat, cool, and power our urban landscapes.

In an era of escalating environmental concerns, it is important for organizations to embrace sustainable practices and lead the way in shaping a greener future. With its commitment to sustainability, the Fort Worden Campus is leading the way through the creation of a carbon free district energy system. This collaborative partnership between the state of Washington’s, Department of Enterprise Services, UMC, and Fort Worden, marks a significant step towards sustainability while addressing the urgent need to modernize inefficient, failing equipment, some of which is over 75 years old.

Example of a District Energy System at Fort Worden

District energy systems offer a multitude of benefits for urban areas, including increased energy efficiency, enhanced reliability, lower operating costs, local economic development, and a path to carbon free building operations. By centralizing energy production and distribution, district energy optimizes energy utilization, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and promotes the integration of renewable energy sources. They also provide reliable and resilient energy supply, contributing to operational continuity for critical infrastructure.

Moreover, district energy systems create jobs, stimulate economic growth, and revitalize urban areas while mitigating the environmental impact of individual heating and cooling systems, resulting in cleaner and healthier cities.

In addition to the numerous advantages of a centralized district energy system, this project takes a bold step towards a greener future by tapping into the carbon free heating available right beneath your feet. A new geo-exchange system will be incorporated to provide efficient, renewable heating and cooling throughout the campus; replacing a bevy of fossil fuel powered systems that currently provide heating for the campus. Through the installation of an underground series of pipes, a geo-exchange system utilizes the inherent thermal properties of the earth, coupled with efficient heat pumps, to deliver hot and cold water throughout the campus from a centralized energy plant. By leveraging renewable energy sources and cutting-edge technologies, Fort Worden ensures that the buildings within the project achieve their thermal comfort needs without contributing to carbon emissions.

In the world of heating and cooling the Fort Worden campus buildings, three contenders' step into the ring. Distributed fossil fuel boiler systems bring individual expenses and fuel dependency. Distributed electrical boiler systems shine with their renewable hydropower but have higher operating costs and require more capacity from the grid. Then, there's the ultimate money-saver: district energy systems. With shared resources, efficient production, and cost-cutting prowess, they deliver knockout blows to high bills. District energy systems take the crown in the cost comparison battle, offering a winning combination of savings and sustainability.

With reliable, low maintenance, cost-effective heating and cooling solutions provided by district energy, Fort Worden can focus their resources on supporting community events, promoting local talent, and enhancing cultural experiences. It's a win-win situation, where sustainable infrastructure powers unforgettable moments and strengthens the bonds within the community.

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