District Energy 101
Climate change is upending urban infrastructure
Canada faces unprecedented change as a result of climate change – warming at twice the rate of the global average, according to Environment and Climate Change Canada. Even with extreme carbon reductions (that the world is currently not on track to achieve), Canada is poised to face significant climate change impacts.
Across 10 provinces and 3 territories, 80% of Canadians live in urban areas. The high density of people, governments, businesses and infrastructure makes urban areas vulnerable to climate change impacts, including floods, extreme weather, wind, and snow.
Making it resilient and low carbon is smart planning
Those who plan for climate risk and opportunity now will reap economic benefits in the future when the inevitable policy response requires deep mitigation and robust adaptation to try to avoid dangerous climate change.
A district energy system, because it is centralized, makes it easier to introduce the use of less carbon-intensive fuel sources, such as solar thermal, heat recovery from sewers, bioenergy, cold lake water, and ground heat, and integrate them at an energy centre with virtually no impact on the connected buildings.
FREE UP SPACE, REDUCE COSTS, INCREASE EFFICIENCY AND MARKET RESILIENCY
A low-carbon and resilient district energy system will:
Free Up Roof Top Penthouses
A district energy system increases developable square footage in a connected building’s basement and roof by removing the large mechanical room and space for individual utilities.
Reduce Capital Costs
Removing the cooling tower, stacks/chimneys, domestic hot water storage tanks, boilers and chillers saves upfront capital costs.
Expand Marketing Opportunities
The reliability, stability and resiliency of an energy system disconnected from our vulnerable electrical grid can be marketed as an insurance policy against coming climate impacts, while a low-carbon system can be promoted to citizens looking to easily reduce their footprint with limited impact on their lifestyles.
Increase Energy and Cost Efficiency
District energy systems can provide better fuel flexibility, efficiency and pollution control than individual heating and cooling systems. Standard energy systems lose a significant amount of energy through transmission. Closely located district energy systems provide more of the energy generated to the customer. Connection to a district energy system provides an opportunity to meet energy and environmental standards.
GETTING DISTRICT ENERGY READY IS LOW COST
Use the same sized pipes, a hot water heating system and leave some ground floor space are a few low-cost actions developers can take during construction to avoid costly retrofits down the line and to get a building district energy-ready.
USE THE RIGHT SIZED PIPES
Traditionally, buildings host a hot water source on the roof and let gravity bring the water down the building, with the pipe size gradually narrowing as you descend. District Energy grants the ability to supply thermal energy from ground level, meaning that hot water may need to be sent upwards through a uniform pipe size.
USE A HOT WATER HEATING SYSTEM
Use low temperature water heating system for domestic and heating systems (i.e. large temperature differential or ∆T). This network is similar to the steam and hot water in the district energy system. Individual air-source heat pumps in each unit will not work.
ALLOCATE ADEQUATE GROUND LEVEL SPACE
Adequate space at or below ground level for a future energy transfer station should be included in the design of a building to make it district energy-ready
An easement between the mechanical room and the property line to allow for thermal piping may also be necessary.
HOW TO GET TO DISTRICT ENERGY SUCCESS?
There is no easy road to district energy success. Unless your jurisdiction has a requirement for mandatory hook-up to a district energy system, the road may require persistence, a diverse group of supporters, a strong business case and knowledgeable technical support. Here are some tips for how to build up these things to achieve success:
Have a vision and stick to it
Whether you are looking to build your community energy project to reduce carbon emissions, bolster resiliency, foster partnerships, boost innovation or support economic development, you must be clear on the vision from the start. Stick with it and work with your stakeholders to see the major engineering project through.
Build community support
A number of district energy projects have failed because groups held competing visions or the shared vision fell apart over time. Developers or property managers may not realize that they can save money through a district energy system and avoid costs incurred from acquiring, maintaining, repairing, or upgrading capital assets, such as their own HVAC systems.
Your plan should include the identification and education of individual thought leaders, project champions, and strong political leadership. You need sustained buy-in from a lot of community champions and partners over a long period of time to maneuver through regulatory and market barriers. Securing an anchor load as a main client will help de-risk the project and improve your economy of scale.
Assemble experienced professionals
There are a number of experienced professionals who can provide planning, strategy and technical solutions for the on-the-ground implementation of community energy projects. Ensuring you have the right mix is an important step to move a project forward.
it must make economic sense
Developers are busy, risk averse and stick with what they know, but most of all they are concerned about the cost. If you want to see your district energy project make economic sense, you will need to get buy-in from a number of either developers or property managers. A number of projects have succeeded with government support, but projects can often last longer than political mandates, so make sure the underlying business case is strong before proceeding.
Contact Quest Canada
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CONTACT YMCA OF GREATER TORONTO
ADDRESS - YMCA OF GREATER TORONTO
2200 Yonge St., Unit 300
Toronto, Ontario, M4S 2C6
PHONE - YMCA of Greater Toronto
Toll Free: 1-800-223-8024