Exhibition Place Experiments with Energy

January 23, 2006
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Three years after a gigantic wind-powered turbine began turning wind into electricity at Exhibition Place, the downtown fairgrounds and showplace is ready to take its next steps on a road to energy self-sufficiency. And they start with horses.

This month the city formally invited Carmanah Technologies Corp., a Victoria-based energy technology concern, to construct a 100-kilowatt solar power system on the roof of the 75-year-old Horse Palace. When the array is finished — at an estimated cost of $1-million and a completion date of June, 2006 — the equestrian centre will be home to the largest solar power system in Canada.

Preliminary work is already under way for a third leg of Exhibition Place’s energy plan — a trigeneration system that will burn natural gas to produce electricity along with heating in the winter or cooling in the summer for the vast National Trade Centre at the eastern end of the downtown site.

The projects are part of the city-directed body’s stated goal of achieving energy self-sufficiency by 2010. That would be quite a feat for a site that used 37,659 megawatt hours of electricity last year, enough to power more than 6,000 homes.

But it’s necessary if Torontonians want better air quality, said Joe Pantalone, Toronto’s deputy mayor and chair of the board of governors for Exhibition Place.

"l;It’s no longer an option for our community in general, and obviously government agencies in particular, to consider green technologies. It’s definitely the way to the future."l;

The solar energy project, Mr. Pantalone said, will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by over 94 tonnes a year, based on those that would be created using traditional methods of energy production.

The initial phase of the solar power project involves mounting an array of solar panels on 15,000 of the available 35,000 square feet (3,250 square metres) on the southeast corner of the Horse Palace roof. It will produce about 120 megawatt-hours of electricity a year, enough energy to run 15 average size homes, Richard Wayte, Carmanah’s senior design specialist, said.

As construction proceeds, designers plan to test a variety of different solar modules, angles and technologies. The goal is to design a final one-megawatt system that will cover the entire roof and generate 1,200 megawatt-hours of electricity a year.

While designers begin tinkering with the Horse Palace roof this year, construction should be well under way for the new trigeneration system on the National Trade Centre.

When the system is fully operational, it should produce 12,000 megawatt hours of electricity a year. Designed by Toronto Hydro Energy Services, it is meant to serve as the sole source of power and heat, and most of the cooling, for the entire building.

Trigeneration uses natural gas combustion engines to generate three types of secondary energy: space heating, cooling and electricity.

The system is built around a 1.6 million kilowatt generator; heat from the generator supplies hot water to boilers in winter and energy to run a cooling system in summer.

The two newest projects will join the existing wind turbine at the southern edge of Exhibition Place. The 94 metre tall structure (about the same height as the Royal York Hotel), has made people more comfortable with the idea of wind turbine generators being installed in cities, Mr. Pantalone said. He adds that it is now a city attraction that produces enough energy to satisfy the needs of 240 homes. According to Toronto Hydro, the wind turbine is generating an average of 1,400 megawatt-hours of electricity a year.

Dianne Young, general manager and CEO of Exhibition Place, said a study will be conducted this year to determine what types of viable energy solutions are available for future installations. "l;The strategy is to try and reach a 100 per cent sustainability target by 2010,"l; she said.

Power Play at Exhibition Place

Exhibition Place is trying to replace the power it draws from the grid with alternative energy sources.

Work has started on two new projects: a solar power array on the Horse Palace and a trigeneration plant

at the National Trade Centre. They will join the wind turbine erected in late 2002.

  1. Wind turbine

    A turbine uses wind to make electricity. The wind turns the blades, which spin a shaft, which connects to a generator and makes electricity. The turbine produces about 128 kilowatts in winds of 10-12 knots per hour.

    • The blades rotate at about 27 rpm.
    • The turbine’s base extends 10 metres into the ground.

    Energy production: 1,400 megawatt-hours per year

  2. Solar

    Solar arrays are made from hundreds of photovoltaic cells. The cells absorb sunlight and create an electical current.

    Electricity from the arrays travels through an inverter where it is transformed from DC (direct current) to AC (alternating current) power.

    The power is then routed through a transformer where the voltage is altered to match the building’s electrical service.

    Energy production: 1,200 megawatt- hours per year

  3. Trigeneration

    Natural-gas engine drives a generator that makes electricity.

    The absorption chiller, powered by hot water from the engine’s exhaust, can provide air conditioning in the summer.

    A boiler uses the engine’s hot water to provide heat in the winter.

    Energy production: 12,000 megawatt- hours per year