Dirty Water As a New Heat Source

A district energy utility could efficiently transport heat through Vancouver while cutting emissions by 70,000 tons. What green energy goals are your city working toward?

What Happened?

Vancouver is experimenting with an energy recycling initiative to provide heat to an entire neighborhood while cutting CO2 emissions by 70,000 tons. The district energy utility provides a more efficient way to transport heat throughout the city.


Vancouver has built structures to recycle energy by capturing heat from wastewater in the neighborhood. The heat then warms clean water, which is sent through a set of underground pipes to supply heat to commercial and residential buildings connected to the district. The hot water recycling program can support the energy needs of home and water heating systems by acting like a giant underground heater for the neighborhood, CityLab reported.

Because the setup of the energy district transports heat through a large network of pipes, individual buildings are not responsible for providing their own heat. This reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 60 percent. A developer wants to convert an existing district utility system in downtown Vancouver to use only clean energy from hot water rather than burning natural gas. The system is expected to reduce CO2 emissions by 70,000 tons or the equivalent of removing 15,000 cars from the road, CityLab reported.

Plans to build out the energy district into Vancouver’s downtown peninsula will further cut emissions and help the city achieve its environmental goals laid out in an action plan including:

  • Double the number of green jobs
  • Double the number of companies greening their operations
  • Reduce community greenhouse gas emissions by 33 percent from 2007 levels
  • All new building construction be carbon neutral
  • Reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in existing buildings by 20 percent over 2007 levels
  • Make more than 50 percent of trips by foot, bicycle or public transit
  • Reduce the average distance driven per residents by 20 percent from 2007 levels
  • Reduce total solid waste going into the landfill by 50 percent from 2008 levels

The city is also investing in greater access to green spaces, clean air and water initiatives, and increased support for local food producers.

Lava Fuel

Iceland is also thinking outside the box when it comes to harnessing and allocating clean energy. The country has developed a geothermal system that creates and collects steam in regions of molten instead of solid rock. In Krafia engineers discovered molten magma when drilling a borehole and recorded temperatures reaching 1000 degrees Celsius and steam at 450 degrees Celsius. Researchers installed a valve to flow the steam through, which generated 36 megawatts of power, the Daily Mail reported.

The engineers had discovered a magma-filled chamber 3.1 miles below the Earth’s surface. The geothermal system works by collecting naturally occurring steam from the magma and purifying it before using it to drive turbines to generate electricity. Because Iceland’s system is the first to produce steam in a region of molten not solid rock, it is more efficient. The molten gets water to a supercritical state where molecules contain a large amount of natural energy that scientists can harness and distribute, the Daily Mail reported.

As a result of the country’s extensive investment in geothermal energy systems, Iceland is able to derive 65 percent of its energy from underground sources while warming 90 percent of homes.

Focus on Clean Energy

Gov1 has followed a variety of green energy initiatives ranging from geothermal energy to electric highways.

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