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Shooting Star Casino's Energy-Efficient Advancements: Sustainability and Comfort

May 10, 2023

Project Highlights

Location: Minnesota

Industry: Hospitality

Products Used: Chillers, Controls, Energy Storage, Packaged Rooftop Solutions, Building Automation Systems,

Services Used: Energy Analysis & Monitoring, Upgrading, Energy Management & Controls,

Topic: Sustainability, Efficiency, Cost-Saving, Optimal Comfort, IEQ,

Thermal Battery™ System Expected to Cut Shooting Star Casino Annual Energy Costs by up to 35 Percent


Casino building entrance

The need for indoor environmental quality (IEQ), especially building comfort, was critical for the 400,000-square-foot Shooting Star Casino. The entertainment facility, which is owned by the White Earth Nation, needed to provide a comfortable environment for guests and as host for important tribal meetings and gatherings. Casino leaders also wanted to help to cut high energy costs and reduce the many hours staff spent keeping building systems operational. Additionally, tribal leaders wanted to cut their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to reflect their commitment to sustainability as part of taking care of the planet.

The building had 17 25-year-old rooftop units and four 29-year-old chillers. Troubleshooting and maintaining these outdated, unreliable systems kept up to a dozen employees frequently occupied. For example, a staff person had to climb the roof 180 days out of the year to personally check each of the 17 rooftop units to ensure it was running.


Based on a 30-year collaboration with Trane, leaders at Shooting Star Casino turned to the building technology and energy solutions company to help them resolve their building issues. After recovering from the pandemic shutdown, casino leaders wanted a planned approach that would remedy issues in a timely manner while minimally impacting operations. Trane energy consultants assessed the challenges and created a detailed upgrade plan that casino leaders approved.

Thermal Battery System Avoids High Energy-Use Charges

Thermal energy storage represented a critical component of the upgrade plan. The Thermal Battery™ system includes 10 Ice Bank® thermal energy storage tanks (model 1500C), 17 new water-cooled, gas-heat rooftop units, and two new 300-ton Ascend® ACR air-cooled chillers. These highly efficient Trane chillers offer variable speed operation, delivering peak efficiency under all operation conditions and exceeding ASHRAE® requirements by 18 percent at full load and 22 percent at part load. The Ascend chillers can cool the building directly as well as make ice in the thermal energy storage tanks to store cooling for later use.

A new Trane building automation system determines when to store or discharge thermal energy allowing the building to consume energy for cooling at the most cost-effective times when building electrical demand and strain on the grid is low – helping to reduce energy costs and avoiding high-demand charges that had been driving up energy costs. The Thermal Battery solution is also helping the casino decarbonize by reducing GHG emissions while improving its grid and building resiliency. 

birds-eye view of the equipment

Simplified maintenance

The Trane upgrade plan also specifically addressed previous maintenance challenges. For example, the plan centralized systems maintenance. Previously, the staff needed to complete monthly coil washing at 27 different locations. Since the upgrades were completed, staff now complete coil washing in one central location.

Wireless and Cloud-Based Controls Replaced Pneumatics

A new building automation system and controls replaced the outdated pneumatic controls that had powered the previous infrastructure systems. The Trane team educated the facilities staff to maximize their comfort level in using the new controls. The controls enable remote building management. The new controls also facilitate precise building control compared to the previous on/off-only capabilities the pneumatic controls provided. Staff can now manage specific building zones, air handlers and other components as needed.

Collaboration Makes the Difference

A collaborative attitude among the various organizations involved, led by the Trane team, helped make the project a success. When supply-chain delays pushed installation of the new rooftop units out to early November, right before an impending snowstorm, the project team collaborated to get all 17 units up and running in heat mode within a week.

“In all my career, I've never seen equipment, mechanical, contracting, services, electricians, crane and other crews work together so quickly in such a collaborative way to get that done in the span of a week,” said Brent Tjeerdsma, Dakotas Area Manager for Trane.

Additional Savings

Beyond the energy savings the upgrades generated, the Trane and Shooting Star Casino project teams also worked with the local utility provider, Otter Tail Power Co., to help ensure that the casino could take advantage of available rebates. Ottertail Power Co. is an electricity provider for residential, commercial, and industrial customers in Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota


The energy-efficient upgrades are expected to save the casino up to 35 percent in annual energy costs and generated a one-time, more than $290,000 rebate from the local utility company. Additionally, the upgrades increased staff productivity and safety, significantly reducing maintenance, and eliminating the need for daily roof climbs. The new thermal storage system is also aligning with casino leaders’ sustainability commitment by reducing GHG emissions.

Shooting Star Casino Sign

Casino leaders were pleased that the Trane team planned carefully, minimizing any impact on casino operations. The team worked efficiently and effectively to complete various upgrade components each day while ensuring continued guest comfort.

The new highly reliable systems provide consistent comfort for building occupants. Updated controls enable precise management when any system modifications are needed and enable online access for all on-call personnel so that system issues can be handled remotely if needed.

Based on the positive results generated for the casino upgrades, White Earth Nation members have already turned to Trane for continued infrastructure upgrades at the casino complex and throughout their community.

“We’re pleased that this project helped us achieve all our critical goals: improving comfort for our guests, cutting energy costs, increasing staff productivity and reflecting our commitment to sustainability,” said Roger Gjerde, Facilities Director for Shooting Star Casino.  “We appreciate that Trane so successfully accomplished all this without interruption to the day-to-day business activity upon which our casino depends for its success.”