Exhibition Place powers up with natural gas

A next-generation gas generator recently installed at Toronto’s Exhibition Place has the potential to take the sprawling complex of showrooms and auditoriums off the Ontario energy grid, say municipal officials.

The TriGeneration system was unveiled on March 7 at the Direct Energy Centre building. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the Toronto Atmospheric Fund granted the City of Toronto over $1 million to install the first municipally-owned system.

This new system, located on the roof of the Direct Energy Centre, captures the excess heat and reuses it to warm or cool the building. Direct Energy Centre CEO, Diane Young, said an air duct sleeve circulates the waste heat through an absorption chiller.

“There’s always waste heat when a generator is moving. And that heat goes up and out to the sky,” Young said. “This one actually has a sleeve that recaptures the air and turns it into (usable) heat. That’s really the only green part of it.”

Sole source of power

This new system cools the excess warm air and filters it back into the furnace-like box. This purifies the air so the process can start over without letting heat escape. The air is chilled in the summer to cool the building as opposed to using another system for air conditioning. The natural-gas burning generator uses approximately 1,600 kilowatts of power.

Now owned by the city of Toronto, this $4.4 million system will, by 2010, be the sole source of power and heat for Exhibition place. Currently, both the Direct Energy Centre and the Automotive Building are connected through an underground air duct. Over the next few months, the older buildings at the 192-acre site will be assessed and hooked up to the TriGen system. 

This new system looks like a regular furnace except it is energy efficient. Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone and a member of the Exhibition Board of Governors described the system as box with greater implications.

“Everybody has a furnace in the basement. By definition, furnaces are boxes,” Pantalone said. “It is the goal of Exhibition Place to be energy self-sufficient by 2010.”

So far, Exhibition Place creates 60 per cent of its own energy, half of which is from the TriGen system. Not only does the system help reduce the energy footprint at the Ex, but it also falls in line with Mayor David Miller’s Green City Plan.

Generator meets dual role

“All parties must be applauded for their role in this terrific project,” Miller said. “If we continue to work together, we can meet the dual objectives of reducing energy and the amount of greenhouse gasses produced.”

Seeing that the TriGen system is municipally owned the energy reduction at the Direct Energy Centre counts as part of Toronto’s reductions. According to Young, the system would save about 12-million kilowatt hours of electricity a year. 

Pantalone said recycling the air within the system will reduce energy. Also, the system reduces the strain on the provincial electricity grid.

“We generate energy; therefore reducing the need to draw on the province’s grid,” Pantalone said. “And this is green energy because it’s efficient and not throwing waste into the atmosphere.”

Young said the Direct Energy Centre is the most-used building of the Ex.

“There is no sense in producing electricity if you don’t have the place to use it,” Young said. “Here, the load matches the production.”