city assesses geothermal potential

Imagine, for a moment, Kevin Costner drinking his own urine in the dystopian blockbuster Waterworld. Now imagine a variation — heating your…

Imagine, for a moment, Kevin Costner drinking his own urine in the dystopian blockbuster Waterworld.

Now imagine a variation — heating your home with the stuff.

In the very near future, Whitehorse residents could be doing just that.

Possible sources of heat, including groundwater, soil, rock and even the city’s sewer system, were examined in the recently completed geo-exchange study.

Geo-exchange is the process of pumping geothermal heat from naturally occurring sources to heat homes and buildings.

The technology is being used increasingly in many places around the world.

As an alternative to oil, propane or wood-burning stoves and furnaces, geo-exchange is seen as a far more environmentally friendly form of heating.

Because the heating pumps would run on the city’s hydroelectricity, greenhouse gas emissions would be virtually nil.

This makes the heating system an important part of the city’s Integrated Sustainability Plan.

The City of Whitehorse Geo-exchange Mapping Potential Report was presented to council last week.

Because of it, Whitehorse now has a comprehensive map of the potential for geo-exchange heating throughout the city.

It found successful, geo-exchange systems could be used in large areas of the city and will be used when planning future developments, such as the Porter Creek lower bench.

Geo-exchange heating also has an economic value for the city, as operational costs can be 40 per cent lower than conventional forms of heating.

Capital costs of installing the technology are much higher, but the lower operational costs lead to long-term savings.

Scott Schillereff from EBA Engineering Ltd., the company that did the assessment, presented the results to council last Tuesday.

It’s difficult and costly to convert existing heating systems to use this type of heat, said Schillereff.

It can be done, but the technology works best with new developments.

Councillor Jeanine Myhre asked if the system had any sort of backup heating built in.

“What happens if the power goes out?”

Schillereff acknowledged that, if the power were to go out, the heating would as well.

The city won two awards for its investigation into geo-exchange potential.

The awards, from the Consulting Engineers of British Columbia, were in recognition of the innovation shown in the geo-exchange mapping and assessment. (CO)

Cautious City Council

 defers two votes

Let it never be said that Whitehorse politicians rush into things.

On Monday, council asked for more time before voting on two items.

The first was the Grey Mountain Cemetery master plan, which was presented to council the week before.

The plan lays out changes that will be made to the existing cemetery to meet the city’s needs over the next 20 years.

The expanded cemetery will contain wooded areas, gardens to scatter cremated remains and a pet cemetery.

Public meetings during the creation of the plan were not well attended — during one meeting only one individual showed up.

Therefore, Inukshuk Planning and Development Ltd. relied on surveys, interviews and input from staff and stakeholder groups to develop the plan.

“The public has not seen this document,” said councillor Doug Graham last week when he first received the completed plan.

“This plan is quite different. It’s very expensive and I’m not sure if it’s a good expenditure in its current make up.”

On Monday, Graham recommended that council put off approving the plan for at least a month to make sure that the public has a chance to view it.

Council agreed and voted to put it off until May 26.

Councillor Jan Stick had some reservations about postponing the vote.

“I do feel that we got a lot of feedback for the stakeholder groups, if not from individuals,” she said.

Stick voted to defer the vote but, “no more than a month.”

Later in the evening, politicians deferred approval of subdividing the Yukon Gardens lot at the top of Robert Service Way.

This time it put in a two-week delay.

Again, it was Graham that took issue with the proposal.

The lot is not supposed to be accessed from the Alaska Highway and therefore is supposed to be screened from throughway, said Graham.

However, other lots in the area have been pushed right out very close to the highway.

Graham wanted to know what was being done to prevent this.

The councillor also heard that there is an existing residence on the property that may not meet the current zoning requirements.

“Will that be grandfathered in?” Graham asked city administration.

And a geo-technical evaluation of the area to check the suitability of on-site septic systems and water sources is supposed to be completed by the developer.

“When will that geotechnical work be done, the same time as the road is being built?” asked Graham.

“It should be completed before any construction whatsoever.”

Council agreed to put the vote off for two weeks to give city administration time to reply to these questions.

The application will come back before council on May 12. (CO)