The Delta school district is expecting big savings on its energy bill thanks to new thermal energy plants that will be up and running at 19 buildings.
A groundbreaking ceremony was held at Neilson Grove Elementary Monday to celebrate construction of one of the advanced geoexchange systems. It's the result of a partnership between the school district, FortisBC and the province.
Noting it's the first project of its kind in B.C., Jason Wolfe, director of market development with FortisBC, said it's an environmentally friendly solution that meets the school district's energy needs.
Geoexchange heating and cooling is done through the use of ground source heat pumps, which work by transferring underground heat and circulating it through a building.
The project also builds upon efforts by FortisBC and the district to upgrade natural gas boilers with more modern, high efficiency units. More specifically, this project includes the replacement of eight conventional boilers with high efficiency boilers, the conversion of existing thermal plants to geoexchange systems with peaking gas boilers at 11 sites, and retrofit/replacement of existing mechanical infrastructure at all 19 sites to accept the new technologies.
According to FortisBC and the district, the project will result in an estimated 45 per cent reduction in energy usage, equivalent to enough natural gas to heat about 365 homes for one year.
Greenhouse gas emissions in the Delta school district are expected to drop by 69 per cent as a result of this initiative, the equivalent to the removal of almost 450 cars from the road annually.
"We're thrilled about the positive impact this FortisBC partnership will have on our bottom line and our environmental footprint," said facilities manager Frank Geyer.
In keeping with its vision of efficient energy, the Delta school district has also taken other steps to make sure the benefits of the new system will be maximized.
"Facilities are being constructed, renovated and retrofitted with energy conservation in mind, including solar hot water systems and state-of-the-art energy consumption monitoring. A number of other initiatives have also been implemented to do our part in making our operations more efficient," said Geyer.
The province's mandate that all public sector organizations be carbon neutral has resulted in the school district having to purchase carbon offsets to the tune of $100,000 a year. The FortisBC project will eliminate the need to purchase these offsets. These savings, combined with substantial cost savings from reduced natural gas usage, means the school district expects to save $180,000 a year through this initiative.
School board chair Dale Saip noted the savings will be significant and can go back into the classroom.
A grant through the Public Sector Energy Conservation Agreement provided assistance to the Delta school district project with an investment of $1.4 million. FortisBC is contributing $5 million.
Noting the partnership with the Delta district had been in the works for almost three years, Minister of Advanced Education, Innovation and Technology John Yap said the project is a sensible one.
Construction of the thermal energy system has begun and should be operational by 2014.