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Edmonton’s Blatchford development features Canada’s largest ambient-temperature district energy system

On November 30, 2013, the final flight departed from the City Centre Airport in Edmonton, marking the closure of the municipal airfield. The closure of the airfield set the stage for the City of Edmonton to redevelop the area, which is located near its city centre. Covering 217 hectares, the Blatchford redevelopment offered the City of Edmonton a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build a visionary downtown neighbourhood.   

The City embraced the opportunity and envisaged an innovative and environmentally-friendly community. At the heart of this sustainable neighbourhood would be its world-leading, district energy system. Based on renewable energy sources, the district energy system offered environmental and carbon-reduction benefits. 

The City engaged Associated Engineering to assess the feasibility and develop a preliminary design of an ambient-temperature district energy sharing system, considering the technical, financial, and social implications of the system. 

This district energy system is an integral component of the Blatchford redevelopment, providing heating, cooling, and domestic hot water for the entire community. Preliminary engineering included the configuration, sizing, and materials for the delivery system, geoexchange fields, and building-side mechanical systems. A feasibility analysis followed the preliminary engineering to both inform the design and assess the technical and economic feasibility of the system.

As the largest application of an ambient- temperature distribution system in Canada, the project features many innovations. Ruben Arellano, Project Manager for the design, explains, “This system allows for efficient use of heat pumps, integration of other low-temperature sources, such as sewer heat exchange, and energy sharing between buildings rejecting heat and those requiring it. The system is also designed to be a modular build-out and adapted to development stages.” 

The geoexchange field is installed beneath a stormwater retention pond, and includes one of the first uses of graphite-enhanced grout in boreholes - the largest geoexchange field employing this application in Canada.

Blatchford District Energy System reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 75% compared to typical systems

The project also included financial analysis, utility development advisory services, design, construction, and environmental services to assist with characterization and management of drilling cuttings. 

The entire planning and design was driven by the need to reduce carbon emissions. Ruben explains, “Combining the benefits of building energy efficiency, energy sharing within the system, and highly efficient heat pumps results in greenhouse gas reductions at 75% below business-as-usual levels.”

Our key personnel on the project are Ruben Arellano, Owen Mierke, Aaron McCartie, Nicole Scherer, Sean McInroy, Scott Friel, Kevin Darrach, and Kevin Danyluk.

The project was commissioned in April 2020.

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