City considers district heating system

The city is reviving an idea to build a district heating system in Whitehorse. The idea was initially floated for the Whistle Bend subdivision but has since been shelved for the first two phases of development.

The city is reviving an idea to build a district heating system in Whitehorse.

The idea was initially floated for the Whistle Bend subdivision but has since been shelved for the first two phases of development. The city balked at the estimated $18-million cost of the proposed geoexchange system.

Now it is looking to build a district heating system in existing Whitehorse neighbourhoods.

Hospital Road, Lewes Boulevard and the downtown core are being considered for a district-heating system, said Whitehorse sustainability co-ordinator Shannon Clohosey on Wednesday.

Those areas have enough city and territorial buildings clustered together to hook together into an effective district heating system, she said.

The idea would be to power the buildings with bioenergy, using “wood pucks” burned in a centralized boiler.

That type of heating system can substantially reduce the amount of greenhouse gases city buildings emit, said Clohosey.

Currently, municipal buildings are responsible for spewing out 51 per cent of all greenhouse gases released by city departments.

But, once again, the only catch could be the cost.

The price of heating buildings hooked into a district heating system could rise by six per cent. The city would have to take on a $1.3-million deficit before the project begins to pay for itself, said Clohosey.

That could take anywhere from four to 10 years.

However, the costs could be offset if nearby nongovernment buildings were to plug into the system.

“If we were to go ahead with this we would definitely approach hotels and other buildings in the zone to decrease that six per cent,” she said.

The city is only in the initial stages of studying the idea, she added.

Clohosey is working to rustle up money for more studies and estimates that could cost around $100,000.

“I really think there can be measurable cost savings that will make a payback on this $100,000,” she said.

Of course, this only holds if the studies aren’t immediately shelved as they were with phase one and two of the Whistle Bend subdivison.

In that instance, $240,000 was poured into a feasibility study. Its “preferred option” was to build a district heating system in Whistle Bend during phase one and two of the development, according to Alberta-based EBA Engineering.

The city is still considering implementing the technology in phase three and four of the subdivision, say city planners. However, that will require new feasibility studies.

Yellowknife is pushing ahead with a district heating system.

It plans to capture geothermal heat from the abandoned Con Mine lying underneath the city. Construction could start in 2012.

The project could cost upwards of $30 million, but would be developed to be competitive with oil prices, said Yellowknife energy co-ordinator Mark Henry in a report by the Northern News Service.

Contact Vivian Belik at

vivianb@yukon-news.com