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City unveils new $4.8-million geothermal system

Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie and other city officials tour the inside of a new district energy facility in West Cambie Thursday. - City of Richmond photo
Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie and other city officials tour the inside of a new district energy facility in West Cambie Thursday.
— image credit: City of Richmond photo

City officials cut the ribbon Thursday on Richmond's first district energy utility, which will harness geothermal energy to heat and cool more than 500 homes in its first phase.

The new $4.8-million utility is powering apartments in the city's redeveloping West Cambie neighbourhood of Alexandra.

“Richmond is committed to being a sustainable community and that requires finding new ways to meet our energy needs, while also reducing our greenhouse gas emissions,” said Mayor Malcolm Brodie, in a news release.

The city owns and operates the Odlin Road facility, which is set to offer energy to three major new housing developments in the area.

The utility is already supplying the energy that will be needed to heat and cool the new Remy and Mayfair developments, which, when occupied, will include more than 500 new homes and a major new daycare.

Construction is expected to begin soon on the new Omega development, which will also be a client of the new utility. The utility is designed to be expanded as needed to service other clients in the neighbourhood.

The facility costs $80,000 to operate annually at full capacity. According to the city, this cost—along with the construction cost—will be recovered over time through user rates, making the utility self-financing.

This utility uses technology to extract heat from the ground through an underground network of vertical pipe loops and more than 350 wells. Water is pumped though this network where it's naturally heated by the earth. The water is then re-circulated into the utility, where pumps distribute it to heat exchangers inside the residential buildings.

At full capacity, the utility will avoid the production of 200 to 600 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the city.

Officials are now looking at developing more district energy utilities for redeveloping areas of City Centre. Such projects aim to make a dent in city council's goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 33 per cent by 2020, and by 80 per cent by 2050 from 2007 levels.

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