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The neglected clean heat we flush down the drains

By District Energy posted 01-11-2024 10:17




In this part of Vancouver, innovative technology is harnessing heat from wastewater and using it as a renewable energy source to heat homes.
When the occasional snowfall dusts the streets of Vancouver in the midst of winter, the layer of white can quickly become punctuated by steaming openings where it has already melted. The access holes to the drains below ground are caused by the heat flowing through the city's sewers, warming up the pavements.
"There's enough heat in the sewerage system to literally heat up neighbourhoods," remarks Derek Pope, manager of neighbourhood energy for the city of Vancouver, Canada. "That's what we've been doing here in False Creek since 2010."
The residents of False Creek, a recently redeveloped neighbourhood of Vancouver, on the west coast of Canada, get their energy from a rather unusual renewable source – their sewage wastewater. Increasingly, municipalities around the globe are harnessing this underground form of excess heat as they decarbonise their energy networks.
Residents in the 6,210 apartments in the False Creek neighbourhood get their heat from renewable energy sources, with sewage heat being the largest contributor.
At False Creek's sewage heat recovery system, construction is underway to expand. Heat pump capacity is being tripled from 3 megawatts (MW) to more than 9MW. "That's a big milestone for the utility," says Pope who has noticed "an explosion" of district energy systems across the Greater Vancouver region, with many using or planning to use sewage heat as their primary source of energy, as opposed to fossil fuels such as natural gas.