Colorado State University

The Powerhouse Energy Campus

The Powerhouse Energy Campus is located at 430 North College Avenue, Fort Collins, CO 80524.  

The history of the Powerhouse Energy Campus begins in 1936, as home to the original Fort Collins Municipal Power Plant. Since that time, the building and property have undergone a transformation to become today’s Powerhouse Energy Campus, a nearly 100,000 square-foot LEED Platinum energy research complex, home to numerous research and policy centers, laboratories and start-ups.  

The Historic Fort Collins Municipal Power Plant

Today’s Powerhouse Energy Campus has grown from the foundation of another historic energy initiative.  The building known as the Fort Collins Municipal Power Plant was constructed in 1936, in response to the city's recognition that by supplying power at a cost to its residents, it could generate sorely needed income to help the city through the financial hardships of the Great Depression.

In 1935, the F.J. Kichhof Construction Company broke ground to construct the three-story power plant, designed by the Burns and McDonnell Engineering Company.  The building was located on the former City Dump, but which prior to serving as the town dump, made up a portion of Old Camp Collins, the U.S. Cavalry Post established here in 1864. 

The building originally contained two coal-powered steam turbines within its almost 8,000 square-foot foundation. At the time of construction, a 400' retaining wall was also built on the property, along the south bank of the Poudre River.  In addition, a landscaped grotto, consisting of a waterway and collecting pool, was also built, and was used as a part of the power plant's cooling system.  In 1937, the Art Deco terra cotta fountain, made up of a large obelisk with four fish and four gargoyles centered inside of a circular pool, was constructed by the Northwestern Terra Cotta Company of Denver and installed on the property. 

Over the decades, various expansions took place, increasing the square footage of the facility, adding additional cooling towers, and increasing the number of boilers to a total of five.  However, eventually, the building no longer served the community’s power needs, and the power plant was decommissioned from service in 1973.  The Fort Collins Municipal Power Plant, grotto and the Terra Cotta fountain are now designated as local historic landmarks.  The building was deemed to have historical significance to Fort Collins, being the only Art Deco style industrial building that remained in the city.  The fountain is the only remaining historic fountain within Fort Collins, is a rare example of terra cotta decorative construction, and, due to its construction as a part of the Works Projects Administration, reflects a pivotal time in American history.

In 1983, the power plant was temporarily given new life, serving the community as a visual arts center for a short time.  Since the early 1990’s, the building has housed the Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory, transforming an empty municipal building into a center for innovative research, development, education and entrepreneurship.  To support its continued growth, CSU recently expanded and transformed the original power plant facility into a nearly 100,000 square-foot. LEED Platinum Certified research complex known as the Powerhouse Energy Campus. 

Completed in 2014, The Powerhouse Energy Campus has transformed the 1930’s Municipal Power Plant, into a 5-acre site housing the CSU Energy Institute. The expansion to the existing EECL facility adds approximately 65,000 square-foot of innovative laboratory, office, meeting, classroom and business incubator space, distributed over four stories. The new addition is certified LEED Platinum, with geothermal caissons, active daylight harvesting, 100% solid state lighting, a 24V DC microgrid, advanced metering, advanced controls with weather prediction, thermal mass, high efficiency skin (windows, insulation and exterior cladding), hydronic heating and cooling, as well as solar/wind/combined heat and power energy generation. 

The building represents a new model of collaborative space that fosters interaction and cooperation among researchers, departments, partners and sponsors, combining efforts to grow the impact, reach, and reputation of energy education and research at Colorado State University.

Energy Institute Member Organizations

Center for Energy and Behavior Center for Energy Development and Health Center for Energy Water Sustainability Center for Laser Sensing and Diagnostics Center for Next Generation Photovoltaics Center for the New Energy Economy Electric Power Systems Laboratory Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory Industrial Assessment Center Institute for the Built Environment Rural Energy Center Sustainable Biofuels Development Center