Towerside project draws heat from Met Council

A project that would garner heat from the Metropolitan Council’s sewage system did not receive approval.

Imani Cruzen

A Prospect Park project aimed at providing energy-efficient heating and cooling was recently shot down by the Metropolitan Council.

The Towerside Sewer Thermal Energy Recovery potential project, also known as the Towerside Project, would heat parts of the Towerside Innovation District area by drawing heat from sewage. The project sought access to the Metropolitan Council’s sewage system on Nov. 13, but members expressed concern over cost, construction and odor.

“I understand the desire, but that’s a really tough spot to do a project and there’s a whole bunch of brand new construction there that would have to be torn up in order to do this,” said Metropolitan Council member Wendy Wulff at the meeting. “And I guess I don’t understand where those dollars would come from to get energy that costs us more and [would] put more risk on us.”

The sewage system in Towerside isn’t extensive enough for the project, said Stephen Klimek, Towerside’s project manager. While the Metropolitan Council’s system could support the project, members were unsure of the council’s power to give or sell energy. Most of the energy needed would be drawn from a spot near TCF Bank Stadium.

The project is part of Towerside’s larger efforts to reduce carbon emissions and address concerns about energy resources.

Despite the costs, Klimek said the project would be completely paid for by Towerside. Towerside also received a grant through the McKnight Foundation, which has helped offset some of the engineering and upfront costs, Klimek said.

Metropolitan Council member Cara Letofsky said she didn’t agree with the council’s decision against supporting the project and hopes to see it move forward in the future.

Klimek said project proponents could go to the state Legislature next session to ensure the Metropolitan Council has power to sell energy. Governor-elect Tim Walz will appoint new Metropolitan Council members, which will provide a new opportunity for Towerside members to make their case, he said.

“It sounded like they just wanted to stop thinking about it all, so I would love to get them back to the table,” said Ward 2 City Council member Cam Gordon.

Gordon and City Council members Phillipe Cunningham of Ward 4 and Andrew Johnson of Ward 12 sent a letter to the Metropolitan Council asking members to continue studying the project. Gordon said he understood concerns that the project was not part of the council’s jurisdiction, but he was excited about the potential for the project.

Klimek said it’s important the project be approved soon so future Prospect Park developments can be built to fit the project.

“So, we have about a year, maybe, to get them comfortable enough that there’s a project on the way that could be their energy source,” Klimek said.