Local politicans help to cut the ribbon for the official opening of the West Village Energy Centre and Park on Thursday, June 20, 2019. (Photo: Lauren Collins)

Environment

City hopes Surrey’s new energy centre will be ‘a window’ into sustainability

Facility’s goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

When designing the West Village Energy Centre and Park, there was an intent to make sure the inner workings of the centre were visible to the community as a way to promote awareness of energy consumption and sustainability, says Jason Owen.

The city officially opened the centre and park, located at 13231 Central Ave., on Thursday (June 20).

The “state-of-the-art” facility, said a news release from the city, will be “an integral part in improving energy efficiency, reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and providing more competitive energy pricing for Surrey residents and businesses in City Centre.”

City-owned Surrey City Energy provides heat to multiple buildings via hot water pipes that are buried underground.

READ ALSO: An exclusive look at Surrey’s expanding district energy system, Nov. 30, 2017

West Village Energy Centre is located in the city’s newest park and has windows to allow people to see into the building and possibly get a sense of what’s going on.

Despite the design allowing people “a window” into the facility, Mayor Doug McCallum said there’s still a lot going on with the centre that people can’t see.

“As we can see all around us… the ever-changing landscape of City Centre is hard to miss with new high rises springing up all over the area,” said Mayor Doug McCallum. “What is not so noticeable is what’s happening out of sight. I’m referring to what’s happening beneath our feet and what you see in the building behind us.”

West Village Energy Centre is the city’s first permanent district energy centre, and through a closed-loop network of underground heating pipes, “it distributes heat and hot water to connected buildings in City Centre.”

The same water, according to the release, is “re-circulated back to the energy centre where the process of re-heating and re-circulating begins again.”

District energy systems are used by some large cities, hospitals and university campuses to reduce energy costs, improve reliability and have better control over the type of fuel used.

The facility uses high-efficiency natural gas boilers partially fuelled by renewable natural gas produced from organic waste at the Surrey Biofuel Facility.

READ ALSO: Inside look at Surrey’s new $68M biofuel facility that turns food to fuel, March 9, 2018

Jason Owen, the city’s district energy manager and acting manager of sustainability, said more than 55 per cent of community-wide energy consumption is concentrated in the buildings sector, and accounts for about 35 per cent of Surrey’s total GHG emissions.

“Recognizing the impact of these numbers, and understanding the city’s vision for a complete, compact and connected downtown core, we knew that the transformation of our city centre presented one of the greatest opportunities for carbon reduction that we had, as well as an opportunity to affect real change in district energy,” Owen said.

However, West Village isn’t the city’s first district energy centre. Owen said the city first started puttingin temporary energy centres housed in shipping containers — one is next to the King George SkyTrain station.

“Over time, we’ll continue to expand the underground distribution piping network and add more energy centres, powered by an expanded range of low-carbon renewable energy sources,” he said.

Built under city hall and civic plaza, Owen said, was Surrey’s first low-carbon energy source, which “uses Earth’s heat as a source by tapping into an underground geoexhange field.”

“Today, the system provides heat to the district energy network when its full capacity is not needed to service city hall.”

Owen said Surrey City Energy has a 30-year build-out plan to expande the district energy network throughout City Centre.

“It’s planned to be ne of the largest systems in Canada, connecting over 18 million square feet of development by 2035 – that’s tens of thousands of households.”

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Inside the West Village Energy Centre, which officially opened on Thursday, June 20, 2019. (Photo: Lauren Collins)

Inside the West Village Energy Centre, which officially opened on Thursday, June 20, 2019. (Photo: Lauren Collins) Inside the West Village Energy Centre, which officially opened on Thursday, June 20, 2019. (Photo: Lauren Collins)

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