VIHA searches for new thermal energy options

NANAIMO – Vancouver Island Health Authority is seeking expressions of interest for a local solution for its thermal energy needs.

nergy system is gaining steam at Vancouver Island Heath Authority.

Island Health has put out an expression of interest for locally-produced and environmentally-friendly thermal energy options for Nanaimo Regional General Hospital and the Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria.

The facilities are due for an energy overhaul, prompting the search for a new outside-the-box ways to access heat, said Deanna Fourt, the authority’s director of energy efficiency and conservation.

The hospitals have been using natural-gas burning boilers to produce energy through steam. But according to Island Health, the method accounts for 42 per cent of its greenhouse gas emissions and scheduled replacement will cost an estimated $15 to $20 million for Nanaimo’s hospital alone.

With rising health care and new infrastructure expenses, Island Health is looking for a cleaner and more cost-effective thermal system.

Fourt doesn’t believe there are any utilities currently near Nanaimo’s hospital to provide thermal heat, but said the facility would be a good anchor tenant for a new venture. There are also neighbouring facilities that would potentially use a new neighbourhood energy system.

“We are trying to be [open-minded]….this is an expression of interest and an opportunity to maybe discuss something different [than] the traditional avenues,” Fourt said. “This could be a way where we don’t have to incur debt and are able to also achieve our sustainability objectives.”

Island Health hopes a new energy system could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 33 per cent if it uses less fossil fuels and natural gas. It could also save the authority carbon credits needed to emit, according to Fourt. The credits have cost the organization $100,000 annually in Nanaimo.

Proponents of a waste-to-energy incinerator at Duke Point have talked about providing heat and steam to nearby businesses but there has been no discussion with Island Health.

Fourt said she suspects the facility would be too far away to provide any kind of thermal energy option.

A new system isn’t expected to go online until 2017.