The University of Victoria will investigate a new way to heat its buildings to see if it could reduce its environmental footprint and cut costs each year.
The school is looking into the feasibility of building a biomass thermal-energy plant on campus.
According to UVic facilities manager Tom Smith, the school has selected a team led by energy-system expert Dalkia Canada to look for a model that may work for the school.
“If it turns out to be feasible … we hope to have an energy-services contract offered to us,” Smith said.
The goal would be to have Dalkia build and operate the plant and pay it off by selling hot water to the school via a long-term lease of land and energy purchase agreement.
“Basically, we’d just be buying water instead of generating it ourselves using natural gas,” Smith said.
Currently, 65 per cent of UVic’s buildings are heated by high-temperature hot water, and 72 per cent of the natural gas consumed by the school — and the greenhouse gas emissions that result — come from the boilers fired to provide that hot water.
The cost of the system is $3.5 million a year in natural gas and another $750,000 in carbon offsets.
Smith said the school’s new Integrated Energy Master Plan mandates looking for a more sustainable energy source to lower its emissions. A biomass plant that eliminates the need to use natural gas fired boilers to heat water would blow the school’s greenhouse gas reduction targets “out of the water,” he said.
“This would make us literally the most sustainable and greenest university in Canada,” he said.
An open house will be held Wednesday from 3 to 7 p.m. in the Student Union Building’s upper lounge to allow interested parties to look over the project.
The feasibility study will look at a number of factors, including possible co-generation options, locations on campus for the biomass plant and sources of fuel — likely urban wood waste.
Smith estimates the cost of the five-megawatt plant — which would be financed by Dalkia — at $12 million.
Note: This story was updated with corrected information on March 26, 2013.
© Copyright 2013