North American renewable energy company, EnerWorks, of London, Ontario, is preparing to launch its latest project, which meshes district heating systems with solar panels and geothermal tubing.
The company has been testing its plan to create district heating for communities in the prairie town of Okotoks, Alberta. To create district heating systems, electricity producers, like EnerWorks, capture waste heat created during power generation and distribute the heat to homes and buildings for use as a heating source.
New York Times reporter John Lorinc recently talked with Florin Plavosin, director of application engineering at EnerWorks, about the project:
The North American residential development industry, with its low-density subdivisions, has been largely inhospitable to district heating. Drake Landing aims to challenge that mindset. “People have embraced the project,” says Mr. Plavosin. “There was actually a waiting list for people who wanted to buy the homes.”
About 800 EnerWorks solar thermal panels were installed on the garages of 52 homes. The panels heat water that is piped to a pair of central storage tanks. In the winter, homes draw hot water from these tanks as needed. In the summer, the excess heat is pumped into a ring of geothermal bore-hole tubes that extend about 140 feet down into bedrock. The rock can store the heat until it is needed in cold weather months."
This story caught our attention because of the potential district energy has to become a tool to increase the energy efficiency and reduce the emissions of communities everywhere. Government investment may be necessary in many cases, so hopefully local leaders will see the long term potential in district heating. In other cases, however, community members can come together to invest in neighborhood implementation, such as this community is doing in Portland, Ore.
Being a strong advocate with involvement in the geothermal heating and cooling industry for the past 28 years, I agree with the last comments from Ted Kantrowitz of CGC. I feel and have felt for some time that a combination of geothermal heat pumps using solar energy to boost the performance is a real solution. For every few deg temperature rise in EWT supplied to geothermal systems it raises the co-efficient of performance ie: a typical GHP delivers a COP of 3.5 @ 32 deg F and the same unit @ 50 deg F EWT delivers a COP of 4.3 thats about a 23% increase in efficiency. Now imagine if you could raise the EWT say to 70 deg F or higher what effect it would have on your heating costs. I would agree that a combination of geothermal, solar and thermal storage along with off peak electrical rates is where we are heading.