For years now, members of the Canadian biomass industry have been pointing to Europe as an example of successfully using district energy systems as a renewable, low-carbon way to heat buildings, and even entire cities. Yet Canada still relies heavily on individual heating systems for buildings, usually burning natural gas.
But, the City of Prince George is proving that district energy systems running off of renewable resources can work in Canada – and even be more efficient than natural gas. In January 2020, the city’s Downtown Renewable Energy System successfully operated with 100 per cent biomass, despite temperatures reaching a record-breaking -42 C.
The system, which provides hot water heating to 11 municipal and provincial buildings, has been operating since 2012, William Wedel, utilities manager for the City of Prince George, explains. That’s when the city contracted with nearby Lakeland Mills to provide heat from their boiler to the system.
The agreement came about when Lakeland Mills was in the midst of rebuilding after the dust explosion in April 2012. As part of the arrangement, Lakeland Mills received an electrostatic precipitator from the city. The precipitator removes 95-98 per cent of all the particulate matter that comes off the mill’s burner, which helped improve downtown air quality.
Today, Lakeland Mills’ boiler can produce up to 13 megawatts (MW) of heat using sawmill residuals. Although the city’s contract with the mill stipulates providing up to five MW of heat per day, the system has only used 2.5 MW per day at most, Wedel says.
Inside the system
To set up the system, the city worked with a consultant, FVB Energy…
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