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RRU probes deeper into hooking campus to ‘green’ energy

July 19, 2011
Goldstream News Gazette
Sam Van Shie

Looking at the drafty old heritage buildings at Royal Roads University, Bob Davidson sees pure potential.

An alumnus of the school, his position as community energy solutions manager for FortisBC (formerly Terasen Gas) has him assessing the feasibility of heating the campus buildings with ground source renewable energy, such as geothermal. The age of the buildings make them an ideal target for the upgrades, particularly because the old boilers feed into hydraulic heating systems, which unlike electric baseboard heaters can easily be connected to any heat source, including a renewable one.

"Newer isn't always better when we start to look at retrofitting," Davidson said.

The study will also consider options of biogas generation and tidal power. All are welcome options for Royal Roads.

"I'd like to see the campus go off grid one day," said Steve Grundy, Royal Roads vice president academic.

In the past year a $1 million grant from governments and industry, including a one-third contribution from FortisBC, paid for retrofits that are expected to shrink the school's carbon footprint by 20 per cent, shaving 325 tonnes off the 1,550 tonnes produced in 2009.

Many of the changes are minor: upgrading lighting, air sealing buildings, adding insulation. The most significant change is the addition of solar hot water heating in the two student residence buildings, Nixon and Millward. Forty-two solar panels line the roof of Nixon, collecting energy to heat water primarily for showers. The addition is expected to knock $4,000 off the school's natural gas bill annually.

"We want to get the buildings running as efficiently as possible, then start to look at ways to produce energy and close the gap," Grundy said. "It's a long way off, but it's something to work towards in the long term."