There are a number of technologies available to generate or harvest energy and manage the building interface in a low-carbon and resilient district energy systems.


Solar photovoltaic (PV) devices convert sunlight into electrical energy. A single PV cell produces about 1 or 2 watts of power. Solar thermal harnesses solar energy to generate heat. Solar power is quiet, modular, and emissions and fuel free (during operation).


Biomass is organic material that comes from plant or animal matter that can be burned directly to produce heat and/or electricity. Biogas is made from biodigesters processing organic waste and can be used for electricity generation and/or heating technologies.


Wind turbines utilize wind to spin a blade and shaft that feeds a generator and generates electricity. Wind turbines are often deployed in large fleets and in open and flat areas such as plains or over bodies of water. They are also emissions-free during operation.

Natural gas

Natural gas generators are similar to traditional combustion engines, a spark plug ignites the fuel mixture and the combustion drives the piston to move a crankshaft that is connected to a generator. This is the number one source of energy used in existing district energy systems, but it is non-renewable and emits carbon emissions.


Deep water cooling uses cold water pumped from the bottom of a body of water (e.g. a lake) to cool buildings in the summer and uses the same system to transfer warmer air in the winter. Ground source geothermal uses ground heat temperatures to heat and cool buildings using a refrigerant.

Combined Heat & Power

Combined Heat & Power (CHP), also called cogeneration, provides both electric power and thermal energy (heat) from a single fuel source. CHP systems capture thermal energy that would otherwise have been lost during power generation. It is not emissions free, but improves the efficiency of traditional systems.

Heat Recovery

Heat recovery technology captures and transfers waste heat, either as a liquid or a gas, from sewers or industrial process to create additional heat or to generate electrical and mechanical power. Capturing waste reduces emissions by using heat that would otherwise be wasted and also cuts down on the size of other heating machinery.


Thermal energy storage allows energy to be utilized more consistently for heating and cooling applications and power generation. Electrical energy storage, such as batteries, stores electricity and charge and discharge electricity for consumption at controllable times. Both technologies are key for integrating renewable technologies.

Piping Network

Buried pipes are integral to any district energy system. Because a significant portion of the cost of a district energy system involves the trenching to lay pipes, it is wise to plan ahead.

Energy Transfer Station

The energy transfer station is an interconnection between the district energy system and the consumer’s water heating and cooling systems.


A smart grid uses advanced computing to monitor/control the distribution system of electricity (or thermal energy) to optimize the flow of energy.


An electrical vehicle charging station uses two-way communication between the charger and the car to determine how much voltage your battery can handle and then distribute electricity accordingly to charge it.


District energy is the production and supply of thermal energy (i.e. heat and cooling) and can also provide electrical energy. Generally, a district energy system moves heat and/or cool energy from a centralized source through a network of pipes to industrial, commercial, residential or institutional buildings.



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