Energy is a hot topic these days. We are engaged in an intense global debate about how best to generate the energy we need for our homes and businesses in a way that is both affordable and environmentally safe.
One thing we know for sure is that to create truly sustainable communities, we have to find new solutions.
For a safe and sound future, we need energy that is affordable and which leaves a minimal footprint on our environment. For a secure future, we need energy that is produced and controlled locally.
The Alexandra District Energy Utility (ADEU) which officially opened on Sept. 6, is one of the latest initiatives of the city to provide sustainable energy in Richmond.
District energy is a concept that originated in North America as early as the 1880s and at present about 130 district energy utility plants are operating in Canada.
The ADEU is Richmond's first. This utility uses ground source heat pump technology to extract heat (geothermal energy) from the ground via a network of vertical pipe loops. Water is pumped through this network and is heated naturally before being circulated to the utility's clients within the surrounding neighbourhood, where it supports heating and cooling systems.
As oil and gas supplies dwindle and prices climb higher it is economically critical that we all begin to seek out more affordable and more sustainable energy sources.
Even more important, we need to find environmentally-friendly energy sources that help us reduce the production of greenhouse gases and fight climate change.
The geothermal energy produced by the ADEU meets both our environmental and economic needs as a renewable resource with minimal environmental impact that produces energy at a reasonable and competitive cost for its users.
Located in Odlin Road, this new utility's energy centre will help provide space heating, cooling, and domestic hot water needs for about 750 residential units in the West Cambie neighbourhood, as well as a major new daycare facility.
As further new development occurs in the transitioning West Cambie neighbourhood, we will be able to expand the capacity of the utility as needed. At the full build-out, the ADEU will service up to 3,100 residential units (with a total of 3.9 mil. sq. ft. of residential, commercial, office, and institutional space).
By reducing the need to burn natural gas for heating, it is estimated the utility will reduce the local production of 200 to 600 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually.
The ADEU is fully owned and operated by the city with its capital and operating costs recovered by user fees, and will have no impact on property taxes.
The city worked closely with our partners Oris Geo Energy Ltd. in bringing the utility on line and their support was instrumental in the project going forward.
Sustainable energy systems such as this new utility provide a number of benefits for the community including using renewable sources of energy, increasing energy security by reducing reliance on external power sources, and substantially reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The utility will also provide an ongoing new revenue source for the city.
The city has hired a district energy manager to explore additional opportunities for us to help address our energy needs with locally-produced power. It is our goal to use District Energy Utilities to help the city meet its aggressive targets for combating climate change. City council has set targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 33 per cent by 2020 and by 80 per cent by 2050 from 2007 levels. This is our commitment to reduce the carbon footprint.
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