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Thermenex eyed for civic campus
Coquitlam is turning away from a FortisBC plan — and instead opting for a more proven system in the municipality — for centralized heating and cooling around the city hall precinct.
This week, city staff said the FortisBC proposal for a district energy system at Four Corners at Guildford and Pinetree ways was too expensive and didn't provide enough return for taxpayers.
Rather, city staff are now looking at Thermenex for the civic campus, a system that has been working since 2009 when the Poirier Sport and Leisure Complex was rebuilt.
District energy aims to reduce reliance on fossil fuels by recapturing alternative sources. With Thermenex (an acronym for Thermal Energy Exchange), city staff say Coquitlam would cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 500 tonnes (8%) and lower power costs by $115,000 a year (26%) for the life of four buildings.
At Monday's council-in-committee meeting, city engineer Ian Radnidge said the proposed Thermenex system would service city hall, the police station, Evergreen Cultural Centre and City Centre Aquatic Complex; the estimated cost for the design and installation is around $3.5 million — money the city would recover over 23 years in energy savings.
City council has already allocated $3.2 million for the project and Radnidge said the city would apply for grants from outside sources, should the program proceed.
By comparison, the FortisBC system (based on geothermal exchange) would have cost $4.9 million and would have resulted in a 21% ($92,000) hike in annual heating of the four buildings.
Radnidge said an engineering design for Thermenex in City Centre is set to start next month with construction slated for April 2014. An employee currently maintaining the Poirier system would be used for the civic campus as well, he said.
Coun. Terry O'Neill said there are a lot of unknowns about how the Thermenex system would pay off — financially and environmentally. "We are throwing pennies into a wishing well," he said at the committee meeting.
But Coun. Brent Asmundson said the city has to take a leadership role. "The good thing is we know the Thermenex system is proven," he said, adding, "I think overall this is the right direction for the city to go in."
Coun. Lou Sekora countered new technology energy systems are on the horizon and Thermenex may be obsolete in a few years.
Mayor Richard Stewart agreed, saying innovations frequently come up but Thermenex's results at Poirier have been "better than we predicted."
Invented by B.C. engineer Jeff Weston, Thermenex is a water-filled pipe with hot and cold ends, using refrigeration technology to create the thermal gradient. The technology works through a system of reclaiming energy.
Besides the Poirier complex, it is also used at the UBC earth sciences building, Langara Building C and LSU, UBC brain research centre, Richmond city hall annex and the University of the Fraser Valley student union centre.