Weird or wonderful: Putting sewage to work in Blatchford

Posted by on Friday, July 15th, 2016 at 9:29am.

The new Blatchford development at the old downtown airport location is aiming to be the greenest community on the planet and a new announcement this week brings the project one step closer to that promise.

Principals from Axiom Group appeared before Edmonton City Council to provide a project update and announced that they have found a way to use the heat generated from the disposal of human waste to heat some of the buildings proposed for Blatchford.

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson appeared incredulous during the council meeting, allegedly asking if this proposal was science fiction or not.  He spoke of the technology that might be used for this time of energy production as being a flight of fancy, according to the Edmonton Journal.

The old City Centre Airport which closed in 2013 is destined to be reclaimed as a neighbourhood for 30,000 Edmonton residents.  A world-wide competition was launched in 2010 to come up with a design for a mixed-use community which would be eco-friendly and sustainable on the big piece of land that was the first airfield in Canada to be officially licensed.

The designs that eventually won the competition and caught the eye of Edmonton Council was fairly ambitious, and make provision for the capture of storm water in picturesque lakes, carbon-neutral construction, economic viability and social sustainability.

With the latest announcement about harnessing heat from sewage created within the community, Blatchford has furthered its mandate of sustainability. 

This type of technology has already been proven.  The Olympic Village in Vancouver in 2010 used heat generated from sewage.

Part of Blatchford’s DESS

DESS stands for District Energy Sharing System which has been identified as the way in which Blatchford will both generate and share energy within the community, as adopted by the city of Edmonton.

Heat, water and electricity for use in multiple buildings will come from a central source, as it does with a tradition energy distribution system, but there’s a twist.

Usually, water circulated to heat buildings is heated at that central source while in a DESS; the water comes from the source at room temperature, also known as ambient water.  Once the tepid water arrives at the building, the temperature is either boosted or cooled by heat pumps depending on the season.

Engineers can likely explain it better, but they will admit that one of the biggest advantages of using a DESS is that it’s flexible, allowing direct tie-ins with renewable types of energy like geo-exchange and as just announced, heat recovery from sewage.  It may sound distasteful to some but everything is housed in pipes in a very efficient, odour-free manner and will provide some energy, even if it is a lower temperature than conventional energy, to be used in a DESS.

The DESS advantage

The proposed construction of the Blatchford community, with commercial, retail and multi-family residential buildings, energy will be shared between each building and this will bring consumption down by as much as 20%.  The more energy shared, the less energy from sources from outside the community is required.

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