NREL to help develop ‘net zero’ district at National Western Center

The Colorado State University System and the North Denver Cornerstone Collaborative announced in December that the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory will help develop sustainable strategies to create a “net zero” district at the future National Western Center, placing the project among the most sustainable in the region and creating a national example.

NREL, in Golden, is the only federal laboratory solely dedicated to the research, development, commercialization, and deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies. The partnership leverages NREL staff expertise to help create advanced sustainable strategies for the NWC district and to develop technical resources that allow those strategies to be duplicated in Denver and beyond.

“Embracing an ethic of regeneration is one of the guiding principles in the NWC Master Plan that challenges us to create an efficient campus that will become an international leader in ‘net zero’ efforts,” said Kelly Leid, executive director of the NDCC. “The involvement of NREL will help advance these efforts and create a team of experts to help us deliver this type of campus.” 

Task force states goals

During the NWC master planning process, the CSU System convened a task force made up of sustainability experts, staff from Denver’s Office of Sustainability, and community representatives. The task force created integrated goals around energy, water and waste that would make the National Western Center project unique in the nation.

“The Colorado State University System has a commitment to sustainability — our Fort Collins campus is the first in the nation to achieve a platinum sustainability rating — and our role at the NWC allows us to extend this commitment to this exceptional new venue,” said Amy Parsons, executive vice chancellor. “We are excited about NREL’s involvement, and will continue to work with our partners to meet NWC site regeneration goals and create opportunities for research and demonstration projects that advance the state of the art in sustainability.”

New technical resources

NREL aims to develop new technical resources that will help cities, utilities, and the private sector work together to achieve net zero districts across the United States. Researchers at NREL believe that approaching energy planning at the district scale can unlock new opportunities for cost-effective energy savings through economies of scale and district energy systems that put to use energy that would normally be wasted.

“Net zero districts offer an incredible opportunity for cities to greatly reduce their energy use and carbon emissions while at the same time revitalizing urban neighborhoods,” said Chuck Kutscher, NREL’s Center Director for Buildings and Thermal Systems. “We’re very excited to partner with NDCC and CSU to support the NWC district in achieving innovative levels of energy performance and help establish Denver as a national leader in zero energy districts.”