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Sewage to fuel: Vancouver opens continent's first renewable heating system

Water to wine, feces to fuel.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson served up a modern day miracle yesterday as he flipped the switch on North America’s first renewable district heating system – which takes sewage and turns it into heat for 16,000 homes.

The plant, under the Cambie Street Bridge, is operational in time to keep 2,800 athletes warm at the Olympic Village.

“It reflects the steps we are taking to make Vancouver the greenest city on the earth,” Robertson said at the opening of the Neighbourhood Energy Utility. “I don’t think it’ll be missed by the international media when they see such a concentration [of green initiatives in the area].”

The federal government spent $9.47 million on the project through the Gas Tax Fund and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities chipped into another $5 million.

The City of Vancouver paid for the rest of the $30 million price tag.

The plant is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the area by 50 per cent.

Project manager Chris Baber said consultations with community groups prompted the city to adopt the system, after resident pooh-poohed wood chip burning technology.

“I’m very happy with how it turned out,” said South East False Creek resident John McBride. “They really did sit back and work with us.”

Matt Kieltyka reports for Vancouver 24 hours.

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