Guelph expects multiple benefits from its city-wide district energy network

Wed, 2014-01-29 06:00 -- Liz Enbysk

Officials in the city of Guelph, Ontario say the new high-efficiency heating and cooling system in the downtown Sleeman Centre is an important first step toward building North America's first city-wide district energy network.

Not that district energy is new; it dates back centuries and there are likely thousands of individual systems operating around the world today.  But Guelph says it is the first community in North America to establish and announce a plan for an interconnected thermal grid to serve industrial, commercial and residential buildings across an entire city.

As a press release explains it: "Buildings connected to a district energy system don't need individual furnaces, air conditioning units or water heaters. Instead, an underground network of pipes installed alongside water, electricity, and other utilities, allows multiple buildings to share energy for heating, cooling and hot water. Benefits include lower fuel and equipment costs, reduced space requirements, lower building and maintenance costs and reduced greenhouse gas emissions."

Guelph Mayor Karen Farbridge calls the system an excellent example of doing more with less -- in this case, providing cost-competitive and clean heating and cooling while consuming less energy. "In addition to the financial and environmental benefits," she says, "this project supports the local economy and creates local jobs. It also improves Guelph's energy security by reducing our reliance on the provincial transmission grid."

Read more about it in Guelph's District Energy Strategic Plan.