> FOCUS BY JEFF GAVIN
BE IT ECO-DISTRICTS OR DISTRICT ENERGY,
the result is the same—independent power. In place for decades
across the country, district energy is evolving. Eco-districts, a
newly coined term, have priorities that often extend beyond
energy. Both are being deployed to meet many challenges
including building a smarter grid, increasing green power use and
withstanding extreme weather, and both provide opportunities for
the electrical contractor.
Sometimes the terms “eco-district” and “district energy” are
synonymously used, but they can be different animals.
Eco-districts often focus on neighborhood sustainability that
advances urban regeneration and community development. They
scale up sustainability at a community level. A few examples are in
Brooklyn, N. Y.; Denver; Portland, Ore.; and Seattle. San Francisco
and Washington, D.C., are developing workable districts.
District energy has a specific infrastructure. The International
District Energy Association (IDEA) describes it as a system delivering heating and cooling to several buildings within a downtown
district, college or hospital campus, or even airports and military
bases. This thermal energy is delivered through cogeneration,
also known as combined heat and power (CHP). It can operate
using waste heat from industrial processes, coal- or gas-fired
boilers, and renewable energy such as geothermal, hydro, solar,
biogas, municipal solid waste, or other types of biomass. IDEA
estimates there are more than 700 district energy systems in
the United States (at least one system per state), some dating back to
the 1800s. The greatest number is
located on university campuses, followed by healthcare properties and
resilience and cost fuel
Vancouver’s 2010 Olympic Village
features its own sewage treatment
plant, a 3-megawatt heat pump,
green buildings and an eco-roof.