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article imageNelson, B.C. Considering Using Kootenay Lake As Heat Source

By Hans Smedbol     Dec 9, 2009 in Environment
The City of Nelson, B.C., Canada is considering exploring the possibility of using Kootenay Lake as a source for heating and cooling parts of the city, as a green alternative to traditional heating and cooling technologies.
Nelson, Queen City of the Kootenays, in South east British Columbia is attempting to show the world that even a small city of almost 10,000, can potentially make big changes in its carbon footprint. City Council, in the lovely mountain retreat is investigating the possibility of energy savings through green technologies using neighbouring Kootenay Lake as a source for heating and cooling parts of the city close enough to the lake to benefit. As well they are checking out other related ideas in a similar vein.
Council has put out a tender (in November) for a report on the feasibility of using heat pumps, solar hot water and geothermal heating systems. This would be considered under the umbrella of a District Energy System, with the purpose of reducing the use of the locally produced Hydro electric power, which is provided by a city owned company, Nelson Hydro. Reduced energy consumption equals less of a carbon footprint, even with Hydro power.This initiative follows closely upon the city's commitment to the Climate Change Action Charter, says Councillor Donna Macdonald, as reported in the local weekly paper, the Express on November 18th 2009. She continued: "We have this wonderful opportunity, being on the Lake, to look at a geothermal system using the Lake." Unfortunately the story only appeared in hard copy, as the Express does not maintain a news presence on its website.
Also there is an article to be found in the Toronto Globe and Mail which briefly discusses Nelson's plans in connection with what other cities and districts are doing or planning to do.
Another local journal also carried the story online. In this copy of the Nelson Star, Mayor John Dooley was quoted as saying: " We set a goal to reduce our carbon footprint and this is about helping us get there." He also predicted that this projected energy saving scheme would highlight Nelson as a leader in forward thinking green technologies. This in itself is an attractive point for prospective new residents of the city, as well as visitors. This kind of thinking will help point the way to a more environmentally responsible management of local area resources.
Mayor Dooley further said: "It helps set us apart as a community and attracts a whole different mindset for people coming here. We are aiming at being a leader for renewable energy and a model for other communities to look to...We don't want to just sit and talk about this, we want to demonstrate we're ready to do things." The Mayor also suggested that if the City proceeds with this project it will be seen by the local residents as an incentive to install their own heat pump systems to provide heating and cooling for their houses at noticeable energy savings. This will be a welcome relief for the bill-payers and for the Hydro company, as the demand for electricity will be significantly reduced if enough people sign on to the scheme.
The city is wanting a feasibility study of the projected works, which means council only wants to know if it is feasible (economically and ecologically) to do. Council is not letting out contracts for the work, until and if they decide that the technologies will work in the real world on such a large scale. The contract for the study was apparently awarded on December 2, and March 2010 is the deadline for completion.
The City wants to know if a workable system can be set up using either a centrally located heating plant, or several spatially distributed heat pumps in the local neighbourhoods. They are also interested in whether a solar heating system can be set up, using either rooftop units, or a solar array at the local airport (which is right beside the Lake). Finally, they are also exploring the idea of building one or more geothermal heat exchange units at the planned Davies Street Park.
The contract was given after a number of proposals were submitted, and the winner's responsibility will be to estimate the costs of building the heating plants as well as the infrastructure (pipes etc.) to make the system work. As well, the contractor will have to work out the possible heat loads of multi-unit residences, public buildings such as the Community Center (hockey arenas, public swimming pool), City Hall and the Court House , as well as commercial sites such as the Chahko MIka Mall, the Prestige Lakeside Inn, and the building-in-progress Kutenai Landing residential site. Ongoing maintenance costs will also be figured into the eventual report.
Another area of interest is the Tenth Street Campus of Selkirk College. Too, interest is being expressed in the as yet undeveloped Nelson Landing site at the end of a current development, John's Walk, right on the waterfront of Kootenay Lake. In both of these cases, the City is interested to know if there are Geothermal opportunities to be found in these locales. It would seem feasible at least to this writer, since there is quite a large amount of land which appears to be available for the Ground source Heat Pump piping. (Ground Source Heat Pumps need a lot of land in which to spread out the piping network which is used to circulate the water). This system utilises the heat in the earth itself (averaging around forty-five to seventy four degrees Fahrenheit at six feet under the surface, no matter where taken) as a source of heating and cooling, through the mysteries of Heat exchange systems (see above linked Wikipedia article for details). If there is not enough room horizontally, then the pipes can be sunk through drilling deep into the earth in a much smaller area, but this tends to be much more expensive an option, due to unforeseen mishaps and hazards, such as bedrock, or large boulders.
Apparently it works rather like refrigerator and air conditioning systems, but uses far less power than the latter, because of using the base temperature of the earth, which provides a constant base to work from. Only slight amounts of power are then needed to raise inside temperatures to comfort levels in winter, and to cool to the same in summer. This is because the average temperature is not so very far away from what is desired in either direction. This kind of heat extraction system can be used to extract heat from anything, no matter how cold, but it's cheaper and easier if the source is more moderate in temperature. Kootenay lake should provide a excellent source for this kind of system. Instead of using the earth to moderate the temperature of the water in the pipes, the Lake would be used for this purpose.
Using the Earth as a source for the Ground Source Heat Pumps is said to save up to sixty five percent in energy bills, whereas using the Lake is at this time an unknown factor in savings, but should represent a good percentage in savings also. Using an Air Source Heat Pump, such as your correspondent has had installed in his house, is supposed to result in energy savings of up to forty percent.
The City's plan will not be available for most of the residents, but Nelson Hydro (and Fortis B.C.) incentives, plus government rebate incentives will help to slightly relieve the cost of installing one of these systems (they can be around $10,000 to $40,000 depending upon whether an Air Source or Ground Source Heat Pump is required, as well as the degree of difficulty of installing the ground source piping in the earth.) For example, when this writer was finally able to even get an estimate from a local (overly busy) contractor, for a Ground Source Heat Pump, last year, he quoted up to $40,000, due to the fact that we didn't have sufficient area to lay out the piping in the earth. As a result, he said they would have to drill down deeply into the earth to get the volume of water necessary to make the system work. As he could not predict the quality of the earth that he would have drilled, he warned us that the cost could easily approach $40,000. An Air Source Heat Pump such as we did eventually have installed, cost us in the neighbourhood of $12,000. Heat pump installation companies can be found online, or in the Yellow pages of the telephone directory.
This writer can vouch for the efficacy of the Air Source Heat Pump in keeping his family home as cool as desired during the blistering Southeast B.C. summers, while providing reduced energy bills. As we are moving into winter, he can also vouch for the effectiveness in providing winter heating at a reduced energy expenditure, but we cannot yet ascertain just how much savings can re realised over the course of a year, since the system was installed only in April of 2009. At present, with outside ambient air temperatures hovering around -9 degrees Celsius, and dropping below -14 degrees C. at night, the system coninues to provide enough heat, with a backup gas fireplace in the living room (which is quite large). The Hydro company says that in cold snap the system may not work because outside temperatures may be too low; in which case a backup heating system is necessary.
This correspondent (and a lot of other residents in Nelson) believes that the time has come for such alternative technologies to be widely installed and used, and for individual homeowners, rebates are offered through government programs and through energy company programs. The local Heat Pump installation companies are so busy that this writer had to hire a company from out of town, who had recently advertised in the local Pennywise. This contractor, too, advised the writer that shortly after posting the advertisement in the paper, he was fully booked up for the entire summer season. So this writer was very lucky indeed to be able to obtain his services so quickly and effortlessly. This writer had spent a lot of time earlier attempting to convince the local contractors that they should take on his job, but had been entirely unsuccessful until encountering the contractor who eventually completed the installation. These contractors have more work than they can deal with, which is good for them, but frustrating for the prospective consumers of their services.
The Air Souce Heat Pump system installed in this writer's home is amazing in its complexity of pipes and tubes and various larger components, including the largish wall units which have to be mounted relatively high up on the wall. Also the wall units have to be within a limited distance from the outside Heat Pump units, as they are using a refrigerant, and the efficiency of the system deteriorates rapidly over increasing distances. All this complexity is managed by the flick of a finger, (or a thumb!) on the battery powered remote control units. One can flip from cooling to heating in a flash, or vice versa. One can control the amount of heat, and the speed of the fans distributing that heat.
In this writer's opinion, Ground and Air Heat Source Pumps are truly one more series of "weapons" in the arsenal of green oriented technology, which will help Canadians reduce their carbon footprints over the years by reducing their overall power consumption. Further, and most importantly, they provide a level of comfort year round at a reasonable cost to the consumer for installation, and offering major savings in those heart stopping winter energy bills.
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