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Vancouver, Richmond receive funding for wastewater heat recovery systems

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Vancouver’s successful wastewater heat recovery project in False Creek is getting a $14-million boost to add more heat recovery capacity to its system.

The Vancouver False Creek Neighbourhood Energy Utility began operations in 2010 as the first district energy system in North America to draw heat from untreated municipal wastewater. Once the expansion area is fully built out, the facility could increase its residential, commercial, and institutional space service from the current 5,750,000 ft2 to as much as 22,600,000 ft2, and save 14,000 tonnes of CO2-equivalent per year in the process.

“This is an important investment when it comes to addressing the climate emergency our city is facing,” announced Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart, in a statement. “Nearly 60% of carbon pollution created in Vancouver comes from burning natural gas to heat our buildings and provide hot water. This investment from our provincial and federal partners will help us greatly expand the Neighbourhood Energy Utility to reduce our carbon footprint even further,” Kennedy added.

According to Brian Crowe, director of water, sewers and district energy for the City of Vancouver, most of the water that comes to the $30-million facility from sources such as laundry, dishwashers, showers and taps, is already warm. Once it reaches the facility it goes through a heat pump that extracts heat from the wastewater. The heat can then be sent to a hot water distribution network for space heating and hot water use in local neighborhood buildings.

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This recycled energy from the facility eliminates more than 60% of the greenhouse gas pollution associated with heating buildings. Vancouver has a goal of generating all of its energy from renewable sources before 2050.

The facility was fully operational in time to provide heating for the Athlete’s Village, as part of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

Notably, Pechet & Robb, a Vancouver design studio, and local architect Walter Francl, designed a series of stacks at the heat recovery facility to appease initial controversy over the project. The stacks utilize an LED panel that changes colour visible at night to display the amount of green energy produced. Crowe refers to the stacks as “local art”.

The City of Vancouver selected Ausenco as the prime consultant on the project. The facility consists of a self-cleaning municipal sewage pump station, raw wastewater screening, sewage/refrigerant heat pump, gas-fired peaking boilers, water pumping, HVAC, electrical, instrumentation and control systems, and an emergency generator.

George Heyman, B.C. minister of environment and climate change strategy, announced the Vancouver utility funding as part of 11 projects designed to help B.C. communities save energy and reduce pollution. The 11 projects are part of the first intake of the CleanBC Communities Fund, which committed more than $63 million in joint federal-provincial funding.

Additionally, $6.2 million in funding was announced for the City of Richmond’s Oval Village District Energy Utility Sewer Heat Recovery Energy System, on behalf of the Lulu Island Energy Company.

The project will design and install a sewer heat recovery system for use as the main energy source for the Oval Village District Energy Utility (OVDEU), which is currently operating within Richmond. The project will replace the current system’s natural gas boilers with a sewer heat recovery system.

The OVDEU currently services 2.2 million ft2 of space across nine buildings, with a capacity of 15 MW.

“This project will help move the City closer to its objectives of providing low carbon energy for residents while further reducing greenhouse gas emissions from developments in Richmond’s City Centre area,” said Mayor Malcom Brodie in a statement.

When complete, around 80% of the area’s energy demand will be met by this system, resulting in an estimated reduction of more than 265,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions over the first 30 years of the project’s life span.

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