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Renewable energy system survives cold snap

The City's downtown renewable energy system passed a test during last week's cold snap.
The distribution centre for the Downtown Renewable Energy System is located downtown at 2nd Avenue and George Street.

The City's downtown renewable energy system passed a test during last week's cold snap.

Despite the temperature dropping below -40 C, the system heated all of the connected buildings without needing any assistance from back-up heaters that burn natural gas.

As a result, even through an extreme cold spell, the City system continued to provide heat exclusively with a local, renewable, and low-carbon fuel.

"There are only a handful of municipal district heating systems in Canada that primarily use a renewable fuel source and for Prince George to be able to operate at 100 per cent through such a cold period is certainly a positive achievement," said Raymond Boulter, a national expert on community energy systems with Natural Resources Canada. "It shows that renewable, low-carbon heat is possible even in Canada's northern communities."

Through the system, hot water that's heated with wood chips and shavings burned at Lakeland Mills is distributed through more than three kilometres of underground pipes to nearly a dozen downtown buildings, including city hall, the library, Two Rivers Gallery, the Four Seasons Pool, and the RCMP detachment on Victoria Street.

It also serves provincial buildings such as the courthouse and the Wood Innovation and Design Centre and has already the provincial government about $175,000 in carbon offsets and natural gas purchases.

In addition, the Wood Innovation and Design Centre is producing 95-per-cent-fewer greenhouse gas emissions than if it was heated with natural gas.

Nearly a decade ago, both the provincial and federal governments, as well as the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, provided about $11 million toward the constructing the system which started operation in 2012.

In 2020, the new parkade across from city hall will be added to the system. The new downtown pool will also be connected once it's operating.