Power Plant and District Cooling Facility Tours
Group Tours of Local Facilities
Depending on COVID-19 risk levels in Travis County, Austin Energy may offer group tours at a natural gas power plant in Austin as well as select utility district cooling plants. District cooling plants use chilled water to cool buildings and some also provide on-site generation. These facilities are owned and operated by Austin Energy.
You may also arrange a self-guided visit to the Webberville Solar Farm by applying on their website. The facility is owned by Longsol and MetLife. Austin Energy does not arrange visits to the site, but staff may be able to accompany your group and provide an onsite presentation. Contact us for more information.
Austin Energy Power Plant Tours
Power plant tours are hosted by Austin Energy plant employees who provide an inside look at how electricity is produced and transmitted via high voltage power lines to homes and businesses. Austin Energy’s last remaining power plant, the Sand Hill Energy Center in Southeast Austin, is a natural gas plant that produces nearly 600 megawatts of power to the Texas electric grid.
Visitors are shown the plant’s main control room where highly-specialized staff operate the generating units. Attendees also receive a rare glimpse of the gas turbines used to produce electricity, along with supporting equipment.
Austin Energy District Cooling Facility Tours
District cooling facility tours include an inside look at how district cooling works and the thermal storage tanks which allow Austin Energy to produce chilled water during off electric peak hours.
District cooling and on-site energy services began in 2001 as part of an incentive package for companies to build downtown instead of over the Barton Creek Watershed. District cooling plants specialize in providing chilled water to large commercial customers that have significant cooling needs for their facilities.
- District Cooling Plant II — Downtown Austin (district cooling, thermal storage)
- Mueller Energy Center — Central East Austin (district cooling, thermal storage, Combined Heat and Power (CHP) technology)
How District Cooling Works
District cooling facilities make ice at night during off-peak hours, and allow it to melt during the day. That chilled water is then sent through underground pipe infrastructure to customers for HVAC needs. After the chilled water turns warm, it returns to the plant to continue the cycle.
Peak Demand Reduced
This redundant chilled water piping system helps offset nearly 17 megawatts of peak demand power on the hottest summer days in Austin, thanks to the late-night ice-making in the four plants.
Combined Heat and Power
Tours at Mueller Energy Center include a look at the plant’s combined heat and power technology to capture otherwise wasted heat which is used to generate steam. The steam is then used to provide heat, power, and back-up generation for the Dell Children’s Medical Center. The plant also provides chilled water services for cooling.
Request a Tour
Please request a tour at least two weeks in advance of your desired date.
To request a tour, email Power Plant Tours. Please include the following information in your email:
- Your name, title, organization, and telephone number
- The name and size of your group
- The name of the facility you would like to tour
- The tour date and time you prefer
Austin Energy evaluates individual tour requests on a case-by-case basis.
- Tours must be either for educational purposes or related to utility activities.
- Group size must consist of a minimum of 5 people, and a maximum of 25.
- School grade level must be grade 4 or higher.
- One supervising adult is required per every 8 minors (minors are age 17 and below).
- Wear sturdy, closed-toed shoes.
- Adult participants should be prepared to show a valid ID at the plant.
- Austin Energy prohibits the use of still cameras and video equipment. Make special requests in advance if photos or video are required.
- Tour participants must stay with their designated Austin Energy guide at all times.
- Austin Energy will immediately stop the tour if a group member or members violates safety principles, leaves the group, or uses unauthorized recording devices.
- Austin Energy conducts tours at our discretion.
- Adult plant tour participants must pass a criminal background check.
- If necessary, Austin Energy will cancel a tour on short notice to meet business and security needs.