Hamilton Community Energy
Creating A Local Energy System
Established as a division of Hamilton Hydro Services Inc., Hamilton Community Energy (HCE) is a single source energy service provider, efficiently generating and supplying clean thermal energy through a sophisticated arterial network of underground insulated pipes to commercial, residential, municipal and institutional buildings in Hamilton. .
A district energy system was proposed as part of the City of Hamilton’s long-range planning exercise known as Vision 2020: Strategies for a Sustainable Community. The economic downturn affecting the steel industry, and uncertainties in the emerging deregulated energy market in Ontario were critical factors in Hamilton’s decision to create a local energy system and become more self-reliant. The community thought a district energy system would act as catalyst to encourage development and attract investment in the downtown core. .
HCE saw an opportunity to pursue a combined heat and power (CHP) project. HCE hired Toromont as a turn-key provider design and commission a CHP plant as well as deliver the generator set. In 2002, HCE opened its first plant on the grounds of a public school. The natural-gas fired district energy system includes a public visitors’ centre and educational opportunities for students. HCE provides heat energy for thermal heating and domestic hot water to approximately 2-million square feet of institutional, commercial, and multi-residential space, and provides a standby source of electricity for key downtown customers, including City Hall.
In 2010, HCE formed a strategic partnership with McMaster Innovation Park in Hamilton, completing an on-site satellite operation to become one of the first in Ontario to combine conventional district energy systems with renewable technology. .
The generator produces energy at an overall efficiency rating approaching 80 percent and produces nearly 85 percent of the system’s total thermal requirements.
To dramatically increase efficiency and reduce emissions, HCE deployed an aggressive cogeneration strategy using state-of-the art reciprocating generator sets and heat recovery technology. The facility produces both heat and electricity from a natural gas-fired reciprocating engine connected to a generator and three gas-fired boilers. Toromont Power Systems supplied a Caterpillar G3616 combined heat and power package, which is rated at 3.5MW electric with heat recovery and 12.5MW thermal heating capacity using three sterling hot water boilers. The generator produces energy at an overall efficiency rating approaching 80 percent and produces nearly 85 percent of the system’s total thermal requirements through a natural gas-fired reciprocating engine which is connected to the generator.
G3616 a proven performer
Exhaust heat from the engine is recovered in the form of hot water that is distributed via an underground piping network to residential apartment buildings, office buildings, municipal government buildings, and commercial buildings including Copps Coliseum stadium. Each customer has its own heat exchanger and control valve, allowing for the transfer of thermal energy from the district heating hot water system to the customer in a closed heating loop..
Exhaust heat is captured and used to produce 3.2 MW of additional thermal capacity. Three separate gas-fired 4 MW boilers are used for peak and standby heating demand. The electrical power produced from the system can either be sold directly to the grid or used to supply critical backup power to key municipal buildings including the City Hall and Emergency Operations Centre in the event of a failure of the utility power grid.
Environmental and Educational Leadership
Since commissioning their CHP system, the community has reduced its carbon footprint emissions by over 34 percent and is EcoLogo® Certified by adhering to stringent eco-standards and minimal ecological impact. As an ongoing part of HCE’s commitment towards educating and developing compact sustainable communities, the CHP facility is also home to a public visitor and educational centre for students. All the pipes and circulating systems are colour-coded and easily seen from windows along the main street. Display areas and a seminar room provide onsite learning opportunities and HCE regularly hosts local high school tours and renewable energy courses for college students as part of their energy programs. Currently, HCE started using a hybrid energy system that combines solar thermal, geo exchange, and conventional technologies.
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