Kelowna is happy to be feeling the heat

Plan to provide thermal heating for downtown buildings approved by Kelowna council.

The heat is on in downtown Kelowna.

City council has given the green light to a project known as a district energy system.

The system, to be owned and operated by a subsidiary of Fortis Inc., would use heat captured from industrial processes at the Tolko sawmill in the city’s north end to heat water that in turn would be piped under the ground to a number of public and private buildings throughout the downtown core.

Those buildings would use the hot water to help with thermal heating, thus reducing the amount of gas or electricity they require.

“This really is a very visionary process,” said Coun. Gail Given.

First talked about in 2007, the district energy system plan has now received approval from the B.C. Utilities Commission after an “extensive and rigorous” process that resulted in the company having to answer 950 questions about its plans.

Officials with Fortis Alternative Energy Systems Inc. (FAES) said Monday they are now gearing up to issue a request for proposals to construct the system here.

Siraz Dalmir, strategic solutions manager with FAES, said the company is excited by the potential the project offers and it could see construction start as early as next spring.

In the first phase, 16 buildings would be included, such as city hall, the downtown library branch, the Rotary Centre for the Arts, Memorial Arena, Prospera Place, the Kelowna law courts building, the downtown health unit building, as well as the Delta Grand Hotel and private residential towers such as the Dolphins, Lagoons and Discovery Bay.

Future additions could include the planned new Interior Health office tower at Ellis Street and Doyle Avenue and the yet-to-be built twin-tower residential Monaco development across the street. As many as 12 other buildings in the area could also be added to the system.

In return for allowing FAES to proceed, the city will receive three per cent of the system’s revenues, an amount estimated at $2.2 million over the 20-year life of the contract.

It would also get an additional $75,000 for use of space under city streets.

The company says it will spend about $26 million on the project and by using water heated from heat already generated at the mill, the new system will be good for the environment.

The company estimates that after just two years, the amount of carbon dioxide prevented from entering the environment will be equivalent of taking 430 cars off the road here. That number is expected to double by full build out, said Dalmir.

The initial plan calls for piping the heated water from the mill and an “energy centre” located in the north end of Water Street and several streets that join in the area around city hall.

The piping would stop at Queensway. Future expansion could take it to Leon Avenue and under Harvey Avenue (Highway 97) to the proposed new development at Central Green, but Dalmir said no time frame for that has been established.

The use of thermal heating is not new in buildings here, and, as Coun. Andre Blanleil pointed out, several downtown highrise condominium buildings already use it.

But the new plan would see buildings that currently use gas and electricity for heating converted to thermal.

As a back-up, existing boilers in affected buildings would be maintained by FAES in case the mill had to shut down for any reason.

“I’m very pleased to see this proceed,” said Coun. Robert Hobson. “I think it’s a great partnership for the city.”

Kelowna’s manager of building services, Martin Johansen, called the plan a “winner on many levels”  for the city, noting the significant capital investment by the company, the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and the fact the city will be “staying ahead of the curve” in terms of dealing with climate change.



Kelowna Capital News