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The Neglected Clean Heat We Flush Down the Drains

In “The Neglected Clean Heat We Flush Down the Drains”, Anna Turner highlights the opportunities many communities miss by disregarding the sewage systems beneath them. However, one Vancouver suburb has been a trailblazer in transforming renewable energy and sewage heat. From hot showers to dishwashing waste, an enormous amount of heat is disposed of into the underground sewage system.

From there, Turner says, energy can be harnessed through an energy center that traps the heat and lets the rest of the sewage filter through to the treatment plant. Once the energy is recovered by the heat pumps, the pipe system, known as a thermal grid, redistributes the heat back to around 44 buildings in False Creek, Vancouver. Vancouver is currently on the track for heat energy to be completely renewable by 2030, which is a huge step forward in sustainability for the world. Vancouver hopes to be a trailblazer in environmental reform, an example for the rest of the world, that many can achieve fully sustainable ways to generate heat and energy.

This article raises the topic of whether or not suburban communities around the world can modify their sewage systems to become fully sustainable. Sustainable energy has been a hot topic in politics and social media for the past few decades, and it is more important than ever to focus on mitigating carbon emissions. However, this new source of energy proves to fit the bill perfectly, as the recycled heat makes for many buildings to divert their focus from fossil fuel related heating systems to sustainable ones. Furthermore, investing in renewable sewage heat systems makes financial sense, because wastewater treatment plants make up around 30-40% of the national electricity bill, and by changing them to energy producers rather than consumers, the national cost of utilities will significantly decrease. Thus, Turner hopes that other municipal governments will take after False Creek and decarbonize their neighborhoods.


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