As Mayor Gregor Robertson unveiled the False Creek Neighbourhood Energy Utility today (January 14), he declared its model should be replicated elsewhere. All levels of government contributed to what is being called Vancouver’s first renewable district heating system, which is recovering heat from untreated wastewater to power the Olympic Village.
“It’s partnerships like this that will make it possible to replicate this kind of model—not only in our city but hopefully across our province and our nation—and make a big difference in terms of our carbon emissions and the efficiency that we see in our communities,” Robertson told the media against a grey backdrop. “If we get these models right here at the outset, it really stands us well for advancing this work and creating many more models throughout our country.”
The $30-million system has been in the works for about five years, and today Robertson flicked on the switch of the NEU, along with federal minister of state for sport Gary Lunn, B.C. education minister Margaret MacDiarmid, and Surrey city councillor Marvin Hunt, who sits on the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ national board.
“The energy coming out of this plant will provide about 70 percent of the neighbourhood’s annual energy requirements,” Robertson said. “Three of these Olympic Village buildings will also produce a small amount of their own green energy on their roofs, with solar hot water and roof-mounted solar panels. That excess heat gets redistributed into this heat hot-water system powered here through False Creek Energy Centre.”
The centre is located below the Cambie Street Bridge on the south shore of False Creek. In the bowels of the building today, Cameron Lowry of Trane Northwest in Burnaby gave the Straight an exclusive demonstration. First he pointed to the pipes that allow the intake of sewage heat into what he called a “vapour-compression cycle”.
“The sewage is entering at 17.8 degrees Celsius,” Lowry said. “The sewage is leaving at 16.4 degrees Celsius. We haven’t dropped the temperature of that sewage very much at all to get 400 percent efficiency, right? Now if you look at the hot water, the hot water is 52 or 53 degrees Celsius coming in, and the hot water is leaving at 63 degrees Celsius. So, we’re at a 10-degree rise in temperature from this, from only a one-degree drop in sewage temperature.”
Also, added Lowry, the system is five times more efficient than a regular natural gas boiler.
“With a boiler you put in, say, one unit of heat energy of natural gas into a boiler and you get 80 percent of that heat energy back out,” he said. “So, you have an efficiency of about 0.8....So, for one unit of heat energy that you put into a boiler, you get 0.8 units of heat energy out. For one unit of heat energy we put in here, we get four units of heat energy out. It’s five times the performance of a regular boiler.”
As well as keeping 2,800 athletes warm during next month’s Olympics, the NEU will serve up to 16,000 residents and businesses when the area is built out, Robertson said.