Courtenay investigating district energy proposal

Courtenay will move ahead with a $15,000 feasibility study to see if providing district energy is something it wants to do.

Courtenay will move ahead with a $15,000 feasibility study to see if providing district energy is something it wants to do.

Council voted unanimously this week to investigate the notion of building a district energy system in the Ryan and Lerwick Roads area.

“Sooner or later you have to do something different,” said Coun. Jon Ambler, “and this has the promise of something different that has the potential of being something that can really help us meet our environmental goals and I think that’s worthy and well worth spending some money to find out if it’s going to work or not.”

The idea was put forward by Stephen Salter of Farallon Consultants Limited at last week’s council meeting.

City staff followed up with a report to council at this week’s meeting, which says the outcomes of the project would include, “significant community greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions, the greening of future development, modest non-tax revenues, diversion from landfill and a reputation for leadership.”

The system would use urban wood waste to provide energy to surrounding buildings through underground piping, which Salter had suggested could be the Comox Valley Aquatic Centre, Queneesh Elementary School, North Island College and the yet-to-be-built hospital.

However, he noted the Vancouver Island Health Authority needs to know whether or not to include a district energy source in its designs for the new hospital by January, meaning Courtenay needs to move quickly if it wants to move ahead.

Courtenay CAO Sandy Gray pointed out there would be costs to build the system and the City would have to borrow to do it, but he said it appeared to be a quick turnaround for payback, and he considers the project positive.

“I think it’s so positive we already have had other utilities that have put the word out there that if the City’s not interested that they would like the opportunity,” Gray told council.

Coun. Ronna-Rae Leonard asked whether there was “a bit of a hiccup in terms of the land” as Salter had mentioned NIC seemed interested in housing, but Leonard heard something different.

Gray cleared up the confusion: “It was mentioned that North Island College would make land available. That was subsequently corrected from the administrative end at North Island College that they were keenly interested in the whole program but they didn’t have any land available.”

Mayor Larry Jangula pointed out the feasibility study is simply about the concept, not a specific location, and there’s other land close by that could house the system.

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