Big things can happen with the right partners, ingenuity and some courage. Those were the significant takeaways during a recent Zoom call announcing the world’s largest raw wastewater energy transfer project which will be coming to Toronto Western Hospital in downtown Toronto.
The $38 million project, undertaken by Noventa Energy Partners and funded in part by the Government of Canada and financed by Vancity Community Investment Bank, will generate thermal energy using raw municipal wastewater from a sewer to supply 90% of the hospital’s heating and cooling requirements. The new system will supply 1.8 billion kilowatt-hours of low-carbon energy from raw wastewater to the hospital over the next 30 years.
An untapped renewable energy source that is underutilized in North America, wastewater has the potential to supply over 350 billion kilowatt-hours of low carbon thermal energy, explained Dennis Fotinos, CEO of Noventa. Wastewater energy transfer can be used to both heat and cool buildings and offers a unique solution to tackling the climate crisis.
“We are delighted to partner with University Health Network to deliver the largest raw wastewater energy transfer project in the world at Toronto Western Hospital,” Fotinos shared. “This is one of the first projects of this scale to use raw municipal wastewater from a sewer to provide low carbon heating and cooling to a building.” The project serves as a powerful example of what’s possible when people are willing to “challenge convention and reimagine energy to build a more sustainable future for all.”
Calling it an “historic announcement”, Vince Gasparro, managing director of Clean Energy Finance at VCIB, said the project was a testament to Canada’s commitment to supporting lesser-known technologies. Of course, the project would not have been possible without a formidable partnership across sectors. “When you work together across sectors, you can do great things,” said Toronto Mayor, John Tory, sharing how the project combines the ingenuity of the private sector, funding from government and financial institutions, and support from the public.
The Government of Canada will invest $3.3 million from its Low Carbon Economy Fund, while VCIB will provide financing of $9 million. The buy-in from the University Health Network (UHN) was instrumental too. For the UHN to invest their efforts into making it happen was a bold move, said Tory. “But it will be a model for others to follow.”
The UHN has long been a leader in healthcare environmental sustainability locally, nationally, and around the globe, shared Dr. Kevin Smith, president & CEO at University Health Network, explaining their commitment to the project. “This technology allows us to lower greenhouse gas emissions and make our hospitals more resilient, while supporting our commitment to delivering a healthier world.”
The project’s impact will be equivalent to removing 52,000 cars from the road, shared Tory, adding it demonstrates a willingness by the city of Toronto to continue fighting climate change. “The innovation would not have been possible without the city; it’s a huge undertaking.” Hopefully, the boldness witnessed across the board will inspire the same in other cities, he said.
Over the next 30 years, Noventa’s wastewater energy transfer technology is expected to:
- supply 1.8 billion kilowatt-hours of energy to the hospital, or approximately 90% of the hospital’s space heating and cooling requirements.
- reduce the hospital’s carbon dioxide emissions by 250,000 tonnes – the equivalent of taking over 1,800 cars off the road yearly.
- save over 141 million kilowatt-hours of electricity, 130 million cubic meters of natural gas, and 1.3 billion litres of cooling water (the equivalent of 520 Olympic-sized swimming pools)
To learn more about the innovative technology and the project in Toronto, watch this video from Noventa.