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Hydro turns up the heat

The City of Nelson and Nelson Hydro are getting into the heating business.
Members of city council and city staff toured the new residences at Selkirk College’s Tenth Street Campus on Wednesday afternoon to get a closer look at Nelson Hydro’s new geo exchange heating project. Those on the tour included (L-R) Selkirk’s Barry Auliffe

The City of Nelson and Nelson Hydro are getting into the heating business.

On Wednesday Nelson Hydro’s Alex Love and Selkirk College took members of city council on a tour of the new dorms to showcase their first client.

“A partnership was developed between the City of Nelson and Selkirk College where Nelson Hydro partnered with the city and undertook a project to install a geoexchange heating system for the dormitory,” Love explained.

The partnership developed when the college began modernizing the roughly 50 year old dorms at the Tenth Street Campus.

“The reason that was a good fit was because the college wanted to have a green building and clearly this was going to be a lot greener than going with a conventional heating system,” said Love.

For Nelson Hydro and the city, the Selkirk heating project was an opportunity to get their feet wet with the potential of a heating utility.

“Nelson is interested in getting into the business of having a heat utility,” said Love. “In fact we’re doing some studies on a district energy system right now and this was a great opportunity for us to get an early start and put in a system, even though it’s not the same as our vision for the larger city, but to get a system in place and in fact have our first heat customer, which is the college.”

Geothermal heating is created by directly using thermal energy generated and stored in the earth.

To use geothermal heating at Selkirk, geothermal wells were created to heat water which generates heat for the building.

“To a certain extent the project at Selkirk has been a pilot project for something that could be done on a larger scale in the city, although it’s not exactly the same as our vision for a district energy system which would use lake water as a heat source rather than geothermal wells,” said Love.

“It’s a little bit different that way, but many of the aspects are very similar so it is very good for us because it will give us some real life operating experience with the types of equipment we’re proposing to use.

Geothermal heating is favoured in green buildings, not because it uses less energy but because it doesn’t use fossil fuels.

“Technically the building will still use the same amount of energy as it would have otherwise, but the difference is that rather than using natural gas for that energy it’s being extracted either from lake water or geothermal wells and electrical which has a much lower carbon footprint,” said Love.