ANTIGONISH: Enabled by a substation consolidation, the Town of Antigonish, in partnership with StFX University, is proposing to build an electric district heating system.

Mayor Laurie Boucher says over the last few years, they have been proactive in acting on climate change as they aim towards being the first net-zero emissions community in Canada.

“In order to achieve this, we want to focus on reducing the emissions on the electric supply that we have,” Boucher told The Reporter. “We have our wind farm, now we’re investing in some solar gardens as well, and last year we started our heat pump program, all of these initiatives are aimed to reduce the carbon footprint in our community.”

Critical to the town’s electrification and emission reduction is the proposed consolidation of municipal substations to a single substation connecting Antigonish to the provincial 138kV transmission system.

The Town of Antigonish’s electrical grid is currently configured with six separate interconnections with Nova Scotia Power’s distribution ring around the town.

“We’re working with StFX to have a kind of central heating system,” Boucher said. “This project would be the single largest emissions reduction initiative, probably in this region.”

Consolidating the existing interconnection points to a single substation off the transmission system, the mayor said will improve the reliability of the town electrical grid and allow for significant electrical load growth, particularly in the heating and transportation sectors.

She also indicated council is proud this project will help both provincial and federal governments reach their emission reduction goals.

“It’s a win-win project for sure, StFX acts as an anchor to allow the town to build a project,” Boucher said. “And potentially offer electrical district heating to other users, such as maybe even downtown businesses or some of the other bigger industries.”

With StFX as the anchor client, the project will enable other commercial and institutional customers in the town to buy heating services from the project.

The new town-owned electric district heating system will replace StFX’s existing steam central heating system that burns bunker-C fuel oil.

Additionally, Boucher said the thermal energy storage would provide the town the ability to charge the thermal storage system when there is excess wind production from the Ellershouse Wind Farm.

She indicated the town has been looking at this project for a little while now and is still in the early stages as the town just released the RFI and is now and looking at hiring some consultants and doing some feasibility studies before looking over the logistics from the RFI.

“It has a lot of hoops to jump through yet,” Boucher said. “It would be good for our community, for StFX and it would be good to reduce our carbon footprint of our community.”

The Town of Antigonish’s race to becoming net-zero is one that sees them receive 42 per cent of their power from their wind farm alone, and taking into consideration the power they get from Nova Scotia Power and their other imports they’re at over 60 per cent renewable.

“We’re making our way there slowly,” Boucher said. “If we can reduce some of the carbon emissions and fossil fuel burning at the university, it’s a win-win for both the town and StFX.”