District energy plant

Tom Davlin (left) watches as construction crews assemble boiler pipes in the District Energy Corp. plant in November 2012. The 26,000-square-foot plant provides thermal-energy services to buildings in the West Haymarket, including Pinnacle Bank Arena.

Lincoln Journal Star file photo

The West Haymarket JPA has signed up another customer for the thermal heating and cooling system supplied by the District Energy Corp.

The Lumberworks Lofts, a building project that would wrap around the existing Lumberworks parking garage at Canopy and N streets, south of the Harris Overpass, will hook up to the District Energy Corp. but will also have some of its own heating and cooling equipment.

Because it is largely a residential building, Lumberworks Lofts has chosen to use some of its own equipment, said Chris Connolly, an assistant city attorney.

The thermal system is considered a more-efficient method of heating and cooling and doesn’t require building owners to put in or maintain as much of their own equipment, Connolly said. It works well for retail and office use, but is more problematic for residential settings, he said.

The joint public agency requires new buildings in the JPA-owned area to use the thermal heating and cooling system offered by the District Energy Corp., Connolly said.

Additional buildings that hook up to the DEC bring down the utility costs for Pinnacle Bank Arena and other private users, he said.

The three-member JPA board approved the contracts with Lumberworks Lofts for District Energy Corp. services at its Thursday meeting. 

Lumberworks Lofts will add about 58,000 square feet of building space to the District Energy Corp., which should reduce the costs for other customers, including Pinnacle Bank Arena.

One of the reasons cited for the arena missing initial financial projections was unexpectedly high utility costs, because so few buildings initially were using and paying for energy produced by the District Energy Corp.

The District Energy Corp., built in the West Haymarket as part of the arena project, has the capacity to supply heating and cooling to about 4 million square feet of space.

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The new contract with Lumberworks Lofts gets the system close to supplying heat to more than 1 million square feet. A fully developed West Haymarket, with buildings on every piece of JPA-owned land, would not get the District Energy Corp. to the 4 million figure, Connolly said.

The District Energy Corp., which is jointly owned by the city and county and operated by Lincoln Electric System, is looking at extending its service to areas beyond JPA-owned land in the West Haymarket, according to Connolly.

That could mean extending service into the South Haymarket or downtown, or ideally both, he said.

“We know there are plenty of private customers who have expressed an interest in thermal energy. We’d sure like to have the DEC pick up the ball and run with it. That will help everyone in the JPA area keep their costs down.”

Reach the writer at 402-473-7250 or nhicks@journalstar.com

On Twitter @LJSNancyHicks.

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Reporter

Nancy Hicks reports on Lincoln city government, but she’s been following the leaders of local and state government for more than 40 years.

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