Strathcona County adapts plans to service the community


The Strathcona County Community Energy System (SCCES) is located in the central area of Sherwood Park in Alberta. It provides space heating and hot water to the multi-use, pedestrian-friendly community hub. The county had to adapt their plans when provincial regulation made combined heat and power (CHP) cost prohibitive and a grant was rejected boosting the project’s debt load. The modular design allowed the county to add a biomass fuel plant later in the project to further reduce carbon emissions.


  • Strathcona County owns and operates the Integrated Community Energy System (ICES).
  • The residential development in the community hub is taken care of by Christenson Developments, while
  • FVB Energy is the energy services company in charge of the project.
  • Funding for the project came from federal as well as provincial sources – Provincial loan (ME First! Program by the Alberta Municipal Affairs & Alberta Government); Federal grant (Federal Gas Tax Program); Alberta Capital Finance Authority loan.


The Strathcona County Community Energy Systems (SCCES) is located in the Centre in the Park (CITP) development, in the central area of Sherwood Park, Alberta. The SCCES heats and delivers water to – Strathcona County Hall, Strathcona Community Centre, Festival Place, the Kinsmen Leisure Centre, Sherwood Park Arena, the Recreation Administration Building and 3 private buildings. The community hub covers a total of around 680 residential units, spanning over 60,000 sq ft of commercial and retail space.

The Challenge

The Strathcona County faced large payments associated with the debt they incurred to finance the project, while at the same time faced challenges generating revenue from new customers through their voluntary connection policy.

The project also explored using Combined Heat and Power system to generate electricity from their natural gas boiler, but faced a lack of regulation at the provincial level for the generation and distribution of electricity,


The objective of the broader development plan was to build a sustainable village with social, economic and environmental factors as the pillars for its design and development. The district energy system was viewed by the county as a way to lower energy consumption, reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and provide a healthier environment. Community consultations held during the design phase of the development helped build buy-in from potential customers and residents.

Managing a heavy debt load

The county did extensive financial modelling to determine the economic feasibility of the project, but were not able to secure one of their grants, coupled with longer than expected construction timelines increased the county’s debt load, shifting the cost recovery projection from 15 to 22 years.

By charging the energy system connection fee to the developer, Strathcona County ensured that customers would see a reduction in the fixed price portion of the bill, which typically would not be the case if the connection cost was to be shared by the customer.

Planning for new customers and technology

The community energy centre, a LEED® Silver system, was strategically placed as close as feasible to potential future customers to reduce costs. The system was designed to be modular, making it easier to add low-carbon technologies in the future, such as combined heat and power (CHP) and biomass boiler. The diverse technologies would provide an insulation against potential natural gas fuel volatility, while also reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.

When first designed, the county wanted to add CHP right away, but had to abandon plans because the province of Alberta’s regulations would have required the same level of environmental review as a major power plant. The regulations were later updated in 2008, but after the project was completed. Since launching, the county has added biomass to

A High-efficiency natural gas boiler

Water is heated by natural gas in the Energy Centre and the heat is transferred with the help of a plate heat exchanger. The current installation consists of a 1 MW condensing boiler, a 3 MW hot water tube boiler and 5 MW hot water tube boiler. There is space available to further add an 8 MW hot water tube boiler if required. The returning water is about 15°C cooler than when it left and is then reheated and re-distributed. In winter, the heated water is used for space heating whereas, in summer, it is primarily used as domestic hot water only.

Modular design brings biomass on-line

The community energy system is designed to operate as a control plant for additional energy system components (including biomass) – reducing the cost of future ICES developments. Later in the project, Strathcona County Utilities received grants to install a biomass boiler module. The biomass plant burns agriculture residues (such as oat hulls) and wood waste (from the commercial and construction and demolition sector).

Natural Gas


The Results

Original GHG Reduction estimates were based on a comparison with the pre-existing (older) boilers within the existing buildings.  With the connection of the newly constructed buildings, which would include newer vintage of boilers, a comparison between plant efficiency and newer technology boilers is not available.



  • Reduction of 2,2000 tonnes of GHG emissions annually (1,200 is from the biomass plant)
  • Significant reduction in air pollutants.

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