Westhills has arguably one of the most advanced district heating and cooling systems in the world and is the next generation of the Whistler Athletes’ Village. Driving these innovations has been a financial model that demanded:
1. Minimization of energy and water consumption at the point of demand (Demand Side Management);
2. Recovery and reuse of energy and water (Recycle); and
3. Provision of energy and water in the quantity and quality that it is required when it is required (Fitness for Purpose)
By applying these principles at Westhills, an integrated district energy and water sharing system was developed to reduce energy and water supply by up to 50%. This system is referred to as a District Energy Sharing System (DESS).
DESS uses a grid-based design approach to efficiently integrate energy sources available within the community such as: geo-exchange, lake water, wastewater treatment, ice rinks, and the buildings within the community. This approach optimizes the matching of capital and operating costs with revenues, minimizing the size and costs of purpose built energy centres like a proposed biomass boiler combined heat and power facility.
Currently there are approximately 350 single-family dwellings connected to the DESS, but this number is constantly growing. Westhills has reduced the community energy supply requirement by over 40% and is anticipated to exceed 50% energy supply reduction as the commercial areas are developed.
Buildings at Westhills use heat pumps for space and domestic hot water heating and space cooling, with the respective rejected cool and warm water used for cooling and heating other buildings . This energy sharing has enabled the community to operate from April to October with very little energy input from the initial energy source – a geoexchange borefield.
Heat pumps efficiently provide the homes with comfortable heating and cooling. To maximize the economics, the DESS is sized for a fraction of the peak heating demand. At Westhills, the heat pumps provide only 50% of the peak capacity, but 95% of the annual heating and 100% of the annual cooling. The remaining energy is provided by cost effective conventional heat.
The system and homes are designed to distribute reclaimed water when a sufficient source becomes available. Future renewable energy sources are planned to connect to the DESS as the community grows. The grid-based design and operation allows for an ever-expanding network to provide heating, cooling and reclaimed water in the most environmentally and economically sustainable way possible.