When the Port acquired Georgia-Pacific's Pulp, Paper and Chemical Plant in 2005 and started transitioning this heavy industrial property into a new mixed-use neighborhood connecting downtown Bellingham to the water, there arose the unique opportunity to install district wide utility systems integrating sustainable design principles. Many community members with leadership from Martin Selch, a renewable energy guru with a Masters Degree in Building Systems for Energy Conservation who was working at local non-profit Sustainable Connections, advocated for a low-carbon District Energy (DE) system. DE systems utilize a single energy plant to distribute hot and chilled water through underground pipes to new buildings which, in turn, eliminate the need for individual boilers, furnaces and cooling systems. In addition to better efficiency and resiliency, DE makes it easy to incorporate rapidly evolving renewable energy technologies as opposed to the challenge and expense of retrofitting individual condos, apartments and buildings.
In 2018, the Port installed a four-pipe heating and cooling District Energy distribution system in the Waterfront District. In 2020 the Port signed an Infrastructure Agreement with Corix Utilities to design, construct, finance, own, operate and maintain the required infrastructure for the District Energy utility to serve residential and commercial customers. In partnership with the Port, Corix is developing a low-carbon district heating and cooling system leveraging local waste heat sources and building-to-building energy sharing to provide highly efficient, low-carbon energy to over 1.5 million square feet of new residential and commercial developments. As one of the primary energy sources, waste heat will be recaptured from Puget Sound Energy's Encogen Plant and used to heat new buildings in the Waterfront District.
Ultimately, the District Energy system will utilize a variety of low-carbon sources to become the first District Energy System in North America to meet the requirements of the Washington State Energy Code 2021 as a “Low Carbon District Energy System”. This new energy code bans the use of fossil fuels and electric resistance sources in buildings and requires mechanical equipment to meet stringent efficiency and performance standards. An affordable housing project by Mercy Housing Northwest (called Millworks), waterfront condominiums by Harcourt and the Boardmill Block will be the first buildings to connect to this system. Future projects will include another affordable housing project and additional residential and commercial spaces.
Waste heat will be recaptured from Puget Sound Energy's Encogen Plant and
used to heat the water in new buildings on Bellingham's downtown waterfront