Historic Powerhouse Energy Campus celebrates 25th anniversary Nov. 2

Over the course of 25 years, Colorado State University’s Powerhouse Energy Campus has been transformed from an abandoned municipal power plant into a state-of-the-art research facility with global impact.

The Powerhouse team will celebrate its 25th anniversary and its long history of energy innovation on Nov. 2. The campus and community are invited to an open house, 2-4:30 p.m. at the Powerhouse, 430 N. College Ave., Fort Collins.

The free, public event will include guided tours of the facility, live demonstrations of current energy research, ice cream sundaes, appetizers, beer, and a program highlighting the history of the Powerhouse.

From coal plant to Powerhouse

The transformation of the power plant into a campus began in 1992. Bryan Willson, then a CSU assistant professor of mechanical engineering, toured the City of Fort Collins’ decommissioned coal-fired power plant on the north edge of downtown. Willson looked past the lack of heat, power and bathrooms, and saw the perfect site to build CSU’s Engines and Energy Conversion Lab (EECL). The EECL team  worked to renovate the facility while they launched ambitious, large-scale research projects.

Ultimately, they outgrew the original 35,000-square-foot facility, and a 65,000-square-foot addition was completed in 2014, providing more work space for faculty, staff, students and start-up companies.

With the addition, the building’s name was officially changed to the Powerhouse Energy Campus. The new name reflected the broad interdisciplinary and collaborative nature of the energy work being done at the re-modeled facility. At the same time, the building officially became the home base for CSU’s Energy Institute, of which Willson is the executive director.

“We’ve grown tremendously over the past two decades,” Willson said. “We’ve gone from a small ragtag team working out of a dilapidated power plant to over 250 people working at the state-of-the-art Powerhouse to help solve the world’s most pressing global energy issues.”

National, international recognition

Today, the Powerhouse Energy Campus is a modern, LEED Platinum building that is one of the largest free-standing energy facilities at any university. It is recognized nationally and internationally for its interdisciplinary approach and its groundbreaking work on engine technology, electric grids, biofuels, energy policy, human behavior, energy access in the developing world, and energy-focused entrepreneurship.

“There is a lot to celebrate, and even more to look forward to,” Willson said of the upcoming celebration. “Powerhouse students, faculty, and company partners implement energy innovations at a global scale and make this a one-of-a-kind energy research facility.”

To see more historic photos, follow @CSUenergy on Instagram.