We live in a cold climate. In the winter we would freeze without some way to stay warm.
A district energy system can keep entire neighbourhoods warm, without needing everyone to own and maintain a furnace.
District heating is more energy efficient than many individual furnaces. It's more worthwhile to use renewable energy and end users don't need to own, maintain, or leave space for a furnace.
There's a district heat system in Okotoks, Alberta that stores summer solar heat in the ground and distributes it in the winter.
The new district energy facility in Calgary provides the heat for city hall, and is set to provide all the heat for the new East Village redevelopment.
That facility can be operated by one person, and he gets to go home at night. The system will let him know if there's a problem and he can either log in and fix it from home, or go in to fix it.
Some systems can make electricity too.
Customers pay for the heat they use. The heat is generated in a plant with big boilers rather than at home in your less efficient furnace.
District heating has been operating in europe for over 50 years.
Revelstoke has been using district heat since 2005, burning waste wood from a local timber mill.
As you think about how to grow your city, consider district energy as an alternative to the same old system.
It takes vision and leadership to try to change the way things have been done. Not every city has what it takes to be a leader.
Don't miss out on the potential benefits. Do the research. Look at the options. Figure out if it makes sense for you.
This sort of system won't be cheap to start up, but keep in mind that every dwelling unit that it serves will not need to buy a furnace of its own. That's the sort of savings that adds up quickly.
Remember, district energy is only one element of the city we should be working towards. Higher density mixed use communities not only work well for direct energy, they provide a the critical mass of people for local business, social interactions, walkable communities and viable transit.
WEB EXCLUSIVE: BC's Community Energy Association has lots of great resources including the Heating Our Communities - Renewable Energy Guide for Local Governments in BC.
You might also like: