How District Energy Works
Through a network of underground piping and mini-plants, the Lonsdale Energy Corporation circulates hot water to heat the buildings that are connected to its system.
The concept of district energy seems relatively new, but it is widely used in Europe. In Canada, district energy dates back to the 1880s, but those early systems used bulk fuel that was not economically available for the average building owner. Fast forward to the 1990's when technological advances and a growing concern for the environment brought district energy to the forefront again.
The Lonsdale Energy Corp currently has six miniplants located throughout the City of North Vancouver, serving customers in the Lower Lonsdale, Central Lonsdale, and Marine Harbourside areas. LEC’s miniplants use a combination of high efficiency natural gas boilers, ground source heat pumps, heat recovery from building cooling, and solar thermal panels to heat hot water. The hot water is circulated through a series of underground insulated pipes, providing energy for heating and hot water to residences and businesses within the supply areas. The now-used water is re-circulated back into the mini-plants, where the process of re-heating and circulating begins again.
Flexibility in Sustainability
LEC presently uses a combination of high efficiency natural gas boilers, ground source heat pumps, heat recovery from building cooling, and solar thermal panels to heat hot water. Depending on the temperature of returning water, LEC natural gas boilers have a nominal efficiency between 87% and 98%, a rate that exceeds stand-alone boilers typically installed in multi-unit residential buildings. Heat from natural gas boilers is supplemented with energy from a number of alternative energy projects, including heat pumps that pull heat from the ground, heat pumps that use the heat rejected from cooling buildings, and solar thermal panels installed on the City Library. LEC is continually exploring ways to use waste heat from buildings and industrial processes located adjacent to the district energy system, and switching to alternative and renewable fuels. LEC will transition to using zero emissions energy sources as soon as it becomes economical to do so. This move is already underway in Central Lonsdale where LEC's mini-plant is powered by solar energy.