Renewable Energy, Renewed
The first phase in the revitalization of Detroit Thermal can be traced
back to 2003 when Youngstown, Ohio-based Thermal Ventures II LP acquired
the system and renamed it Detroit
Thermal, subsequently spending
$35 million on upgrades and switching to natural gas-fired boilers and a
new source of clean power – municipal
solid waste. Detroit Thermal contracted
75 percent of its steam from Detroit’s
privately operated energy-from-waste
(EFW) plant, augmenting three other
generating facilities and a total of 20
boilers around the city.
The second major advance came
in 2010 when an innovative renewable
energy consortium, financially backed
by Connecticut-based Atlas Holdings
and organized as Detroit Renewable
Energy (DRE), brought a new, integrated
energy model to the Motor City. DRE
acquired three entities with the intent
of integrating their operations. The first
acquisition was the city’s aging EFW
facility, now Detroit Renewable Power,
which had recently been shut down by
its previous owners. DRE then acquired
Detroit Thermal and finally the assets
of Hamtramck Energy Services, a man-
ager of corporate power generation and
a key energy services provider for a
number of General Motors plants.
In its first year, DRE invested
more than $50 million in the
EFW facility to improve this
connected energy enterprise.
Through these acquisitions, DRE
focused its investment strategy on
enhancing the city’s energy security,
long-term economic development and
environmental stewardship. Detroit
Thermal’s legacy steam system and the
performance of other U.S. steam net-
works had demonstrated district ener-
gy’s ability to increase energy security,
cut regional greenhouse gas emissions,
strengthen local and regional electric
grids, and increase the value of cus-
tomer buildings with critical year-round
heating and cooling.
Figure 1. The Detroit Renewable Energy-Detroit Thermal District Energy System.
Energy From Waste:
A modern, sophisticated
The U.S. energy-from-waste industry has
spent billions of dollars over the past two
decades to upgrade combustion and environmental control technologies and become
one of the most heavily regulated power
generators in the country.
Today, in plants such as Detroit Renewable
Power, high-temperature, high-pressure
refuse furnaces and boilers convert
municipal solid waste to clean, renewable
energy under highly controlled conditions.
Advanced computers and continuous emission monitors track operations 24/7/365.
Scrubbers and fabric filters ensure high-level
removal of acid gases, trace pollutants and
Metals and other materials are also recovered and recycled. Detroit Renewable Power
alone recycles an average of 37,000 tons
of ferrous and nonferrous metal every year.
Further, communities with EFW plants have
a 26 percent local recycling rate – 5 percent
higher than the national average.
Source: Detroit Renewable Energy LLC.