New Westminster hospital and neighbourhood to be heated by sewage

Mar 19 2022, 2:59 am

A long-envisioned plan to establish a district energy system for New Westminster’s Sapperton neighbourhood is moving forward.

On Thursday, Metro Vancouver Regional District and the City of New Westminster announced a partnership to build and operate the Sapperton District Energy System.

The new utility system will capture heat from the area’s sewer system, and divert it through a network of pipes to provide space and water heating for homes and businesses in new future building developments around SkyTrain’s Sapperton Station and Braid Station, as well as the Royal Columbian Hospital expansion.

It is anticipated this will reduce the carbon dioxide-equivalent greenhouse gas emissions by about 8,600 tonnes annually compared to existing, conventional heating sources.

To support the municipal government’s plans for the utility system, the regional district will provide $18 million towards the project.

“Metro Vancouver is committed to fighting climate change by leveraging our sewer infrastructure to support sustainable district energy projects,” said Sav Dhaliwal, chair of the board of directors for Metro Vancouver Regional District, in a statement.

“We are excited to partner with the City of New Westminster to pursue cost-effective energy options, lower emissions and create energy efficient communities.”

No timeline has been established for the project, as it still requires further funding from the municipal and federal governments.

New Westminster City Council recently provided the first reading to the new district energy bylaw to allow for the project’s implementation.

The municipal government first began considering creating the Sapperton District Energy System in 2013, when city council passed a motion to explore the possibility.

“Sewer heat recovery allows us to tap into a previously unutilized renewable energy source, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We’re pleased to be partnering with Metro Vancouver to move this project forward,” said New Westminster mayor Jonathan Cote.

The regional district has indicated it is actively exploring future opportunities to support a number of similar projects around the region.

Such area-based, sewage-to-heating utilities are increasingly common in Metro Vancouver, and are generally found in locations where there are major new building developments, particularly neighbourhood-sized building projects. This includes the False Creek Neighbourhood Energy Utility, built in 2010 to serve the Olympic Village and the long-term growth of the Southeast False Creek neighbourhood.

The City of Richmond also owns a corporation — the Lulu Island Energy Company — to build and operate its various district energy systems in the Alexandra and Richmond Olympic Oval Village neighbourhoods, and the core of the city centre. Eventually, Richmond’s district energy utility will expand to cover almost the entirety of the city centre.

Early this year, the regional district announced a partnership with local developer Wesgroup to establish a district energy system within its growing River District neighbourhood in southeast Vancouver. It would fulfill the space and water heating needs for the 128-acre neighbourhood, which will eventually grow to 18,000 residents and over 500,000 sq ft of office and retail space. But instead of capturing heat from the sewer system, River District will make use of the heat from the regional district’s Waste-To-Energy Facility (garbage incinerator) in South Burnaby.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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