District Energy

A 5 year, 9 phase, $88 million project to convert the Vancouver campus from steam to a medium temperature hot water system.

A 5 year, 9 phase, $88 million project to convert the Vancouver campus from steam to a medium temperature hot water system.

ACADEMIC District Energy System (ADES)

The Academic District Energy System (ADES) is a network of underground piping across the northern half of the UBC Vancouver campus. The network supplies buildings with hot water for space heating and domestic hot water. The ADES project involves replacing UBC’s aging steam infrastructure with a more efficient hot water system. The five-year, $88 million conversion project began in 2011 and is an integral component of UBC’s Climate Action Plan.

ADES will enable us to achieve our ambitious target of reducing campus-wide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 33 per cent by 2015, compared to 2007 levels. The ADES will also provide the platform to achieve our long-term targets of eliminating the use of fossil fuels on campus by 2050, and advancing clean energy research and development opportunities.

When the conversion project ends in 2015, the new hot water system will heat over 130 UBC buildings, including over 800,000 square metres (8.6 million square feet) of floor space for hot air and domestic hot water. The ADES will reduce UBC’s:

  • thermal energy use by 24 per cent,
  • GHG emissions by over 22 per cent, and
  • operational and energy costs by $5.5 million per year.

The project involves:

  • 11 kilometres of insulated pipes
  • Over 100 energy transfer stations across campus
  • A 60 megawatt, natural gas-powered Campus Energy Centre (CEC) hot water plant, to be completed in 2015
  • The demolition of the existing UBC steam powerhouse and de-commissioning of the existing steam system

Investing in Green Infrastructure

ADES project funding is provided by an internal loan, which will be re-paid through annual operational and energy cost savings forecasted to be $5.5 million per year. The largest source of energy cost savings will come from the new hot water system’s ability to heat the campus while operating at a lower temperature of 80° Celsius. The outgoing steam system operates at 190° Celsius, so the new system will reduce heat distribution losses significantly.

The new hot water system’s lower operating temperature will allow for increased compatibility with alternative energy supply technologies. We’ll be able to integrate current and future UBC clean energy projects into the UBC grid, and provide a platform for campus as a living laboratory projects.

The ADES project will also enable us to improve collaboration between researchers, students, staff and industry partners. Together, we’ll be able to explore and develop green technologies and best practices in areas such as:

  • Geothermal energy
  • Biomass gasification
  • Ocean thermal energy
  • Solar energy
  • Waste heat recovery

The steam to hot water conversion project is a long-term investment in sustainable infrastructure, with a payback period of almost 24 years. However, the ADES will operate for much longer than that—the system has an expected lifetime of 60 to 80 years.

Neighbourhood District Energy System (NDES)

In 2011, UBC partnered with the University Neighbourhood Association (UNA) to develop the UTown Community Energy and Emissions Plan. The most impactful action agreed upon to reduce GHG emissions is the implementation of a low carbon Neighbourhood District Energy System (NDES). The NDES will replace the mix of natural gas and electricity traditionally used to heat UBC’s neighbourhood residential buildings.

UBC completed a feasibility study in 2012 to explore the technical and economic viability of the NDES. The new NDES will use high-efficiency natural gas (NG) boilers. At some point in the future, we also anticipate using waste heat energy recovery from the TRIUMF Particle and Nuclear Physics Laboratory facility in South Campus to supplement the NG boilers.

The cooling towers at triumf presently transfer all of the waste heat into the atmosphere.  This waste heat could be used to provide thermal energy via a hot water district energy system.

The cooling towers at triumf presently transfer all of the waste heat into the atmosphere. This waste heat could be used to provide thermal energy via a hot water district energy system.