Blatchford Field's ambitious green goal could be a decade away

City administrators say they can achieve council’s vision of a clean, green Blatchford Field. But not with the technology available today.

Report suggests central heating system run on solar, geo-exchange and waste heat

People are expected to start moving in to the development as early as 2016. But the environmental systems won't be complete until much later. (City of Edmonton )

City administrators say they can achieve council's vision for a clean, green Blatchford Field neighbourhood. But not with the technology that exists today. 

When the old City Centre Airport property was closed in 2009,  city council approved an ambitious plan: a carbon-neutral neighbourhood for 30,000 people that runs completely on renewable energy.  

Obviously, it's a lot of work to get something that ambitious to the finish line.-Mayor Don Iveson

Now a new city report says it could take more than a decade for the plan to be fully implemented.

The report, submitted to council's executive committee Tuesday, lays out actual details on several approaches to reach that goal.

It lays out a plan that combines energy-efficient buildings with a district energy sharing system (DESS). instead of every home having an individual heating system, it proposed the whole neighbourhood would be connected by pipes that pump in heat from a central location.

That heat would be generated from a combination of solar power, geo-exchange and captured wasted heat from Blatchford's sewer system.

The report says council's goal of 100 per cent renewable energy is technically feasible. However, Mayor Don Iveson says that with current technology, it will cost more than what the city can currently afford.

Betting on future tech

Instead, the report suggests a piecemeal approach, starting development and then adding to the DESS as new technology makes it more cost-effective.

"We can add on whatever technologies emerge in the next  zero to 25 years basically," said Mark Hall, executive director of the Blatchford Field project.

"We haven't limited our ability to respond to technology."

Part of the equation the city has to consider is changing trends in the way people use power, plus looming advances in solar power.  

"It doesn't happen overnight," Hall said.

Hall said one of the challenges is finding builders who are interested in the modular approach.

Iveson says he's comfortable with the project's timeline.

"Obviously, it's a lot of work to get something that ambitious to the finish line," he added.

Iveson said even though the heating system might not be ready initially, most of the energy savings will come from highly-efficient buildings, which will be in place right away. New technology will eventually get the project closer to the goal.

City council scaled back the development last year, scrapping a planned geothermal/biomass powerplant and a pneumatic waste-removal system due to cost. 

Residents are expected to start moving into Blatchford Field in late 2016 or early 2017.