District Energy for Northwestern Ontario: A Nextfor Case Study

Graphic of a building labeled biomass with arrows pointing to other buildings, showing concept of district energy system

District Energy for Northwestern Ontario

A Nextfor Case Study

Have you heard about our District Energy Prefeasibility Study? CRIBE, in partnership with the City of Thunder Bay, launched a project to determine if a biomass district energy system is a viable option to replace fossil fuels (natural gas) for heating in the downtown north core of Thunder Bay, ON. This study is part of Nextfor’s Northwestern Ontario Regional Working Group.

Why District Energy?

Climate change is a prevalent global issue. Transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, like sustainably sourced biomass, will be vital as we work towards a low carbon economy. How can we utilize highly efficient energy systems like district energy networks to reach low carbon goals? Use forest-based biomass (residuals) to fuel the network! Utilization of biomass for energy is proven to have significantly lower emissions than fossil fuels, especially when using forest residuals (forestry and mill operations) that would otherwise decompose or be considered waste products. Thunder Bay is in an excellent position to implement a biomass-powered district energy system; leveraging the abundance of forest-based biomass resources and local forestry industries which produce surplus biomass as a by-product of their operations.

The Case Study

Kozar Engineering Inc. teamed with worldwide leading experts in the fields of sustainable biomass heating and district energy system implementation Biothermic Wood Energy Systems Inc. and Peter Anderberg‘s Nordic Heat, to provide a thorough study for the City of Thunder Bay and regional stakeholders.

As part of this initiative, the team hosted two virtual sessions on District Energy systems, leveraging the expertise of our international partners at Nordic Heat. Session 1, “Why District Energy Networks Work”, focused on District Energy Network best practices and introduced the Thunder Bay prefeasibility study. Session 2, “How to make District Energy Networks work in practice” , presented the results of the prefeasibility study and highlighted potential next steps.

Watch the Virtual Sessions
Key Findings

Although the project requires significant investment, a district energy system has the potential to offset more carbon intensive energy systems (particularly the ones found in older building within downtown Port Arthur). Furthermore, this project could be an opportunity for Thunder Bay to lead in low carbon innovation, create jobs, and serve as example for other Ontario communities looking to decarbonize their heating and cooling systems.

To help lay the groundwork for a district energy system in the future, there are several steps that should be completed now:

  1. Conserve energy
  2. Improve energy efficiency
  3. Investigate feasibility of installing a district energy system
  4. Align system implementation with scheduled roadwork and other infrastructure updates

The findings from this prefeasibility study may be applicable for other communities within Ontario.

Interested in this case study?

Access the Case Study Findings