District Cooling Industry

Enwave Chicago owns and operates the largest downtown district cooling system in the United States. Its origins date to the 1990s during a major boom in district cooling development across the United States. The boom was caused in part by changing chlorofluorocarbon regulation and the need to reduce electricity use peaks.

Long-tested. Centrally produced and distributed cooling and heating – district energy – is embraced around the world. While district heating traces its roots to ancient Rome, the first commercial steam district heating network in the U.S. debuted in Lockport, N.Y., in 1877. In 1962, the first commercial chilled-water cooling system in the U.S. started up in Hartford, Conn.

Innovative. According to the International District Energy Association (IDEA), nearly 400 district cooling systems serve cities and campuses across North America. A number of systems have adopted innovative technologies such as ice-based thermal storage – employed by Enwave Chicago – and deep lake water cooling, which is used by sister company Enwave Toronto. Other systems tap seawater, solar energy and geothermal heat pumps as renewable energy sources. 

International. Major buildings around the globe – from Chicago’s Merchandise Mart to Paris’ Louvre to Kuala Lumpur's Petronas Twin Towers – are air-conditioned by district cooling. The technology is rapidly expanding in places as diverse as Stockholm and Dubai, where it has been tested and proved reliable in the Middle East’s hot climate. 

Connected. Many district energy organizations are members of IDEA. Founded in 1909 with a singular district heating focus, the association expanded in 1985 to encompass the burgeoning district cooling industry as well. In 2012, Enwave Chicago (then Thermal Chicago) hosted IDEA’s annual conference and trade show in Chicago and remains an active member.

Learn more about district energy in these IDEA videos.



Quiz Yourself

How many gallons of fresh water can a 100,000-sq-ft building save annually by using district cooling instead of chillers?