UBC won the International District Energy Association (IDEA) Award for Innovation for the Bio-energy Research and Demonstration Facility (BRDF). David Woodson, Managing Director of Energy and Water Services, explains what made the BRDF stand out and how it helps UBC advance its sustainability goals while supporting teaching, learning and research. WHAT IS THE BRDF AND WHAT MAKES IT STAND OUT? Using renewable fuels, the BRDF produces steam, electricity, and hot water that is then distributed for use in campus buildings. In combination with the Campus Energy Centre, our primary energy source, it makes up UBC’s district energy system. By using biomass (clean wood waste), the BRDF helps UBC reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by replacing conventional fuels such as natural gas and fuel oil with a renewable fuel. What’s unique about the BRDF is that it was the first project of this scale in North America capable of generating both clean heat and power using biomass, a plant-based, renewable energy alternative to fossil fuels. In 2016, the BRDF completed its fourth year of operation. It generates heat from renewable biomass and electricity from Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) and provides energy for 20 per cent of the total campus steam production, which has led to significant reductions in natural gas use on campus and a reduction in overall campus GHG emissions by 11 per cent compared to 2007 levels. The facility is a physical manifestation of the Campus as a Living Laboratory concept as it integrates UBC’s core academic mandate (research and teaching) with the university’s operational and infrastructure requirements. Establishing research laboratory space inside an operational facility is a unique concept that has garnered significant positive attention from our peers. We’ve had 11 spin-off research and development projects that engaged 14 UBC faculty and a larger number of students.
UBC Wins Innovation Award for District Energy System