Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
October 5, 2009
Marian Centre goes solar
Inspired by Vatican, concerned with soup kitchen's energy use, centre turns to renewable energy
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON - In efforts to reduce utility costs and show environmental stewardship, an inner city Catholic soup kitchen is turning to solar energy.
Paralyzed by poverty, homeless men seek help at Edmonton's downtown Marian Centre where members of the Madonna House apostolate and a cadre of volunteers prepare about 150 meals for them daily. Meal preparation and washing dishes afterwards make high demands for hot water and natural gas.
Relying entirely on volunteer labour and monetary donations, the Marian Centre tries to spend its funds wisely, said director Patrick Stewart. So it decided to invest in new technology that will result in long-term savings.
"We have to be good stewards of the money that we receive, so one way in the long run is to reduce our utility costs. We run about 800 gallons of super hot water through our dishwasher every week.
"We are putting in two systems that will help reduce the need for natural gas in the boiler," explained Stewart.
Recently installed were a waste heat recovery system for the dishwasher and 88 evacuated heat pipe tubes on the roof, which will reduce natural gas usage.
"Our natural gas use is to heat water for this house both domestically - there's 13 of us that live here - and apostolically, our work to serve the poor in the inner city.
"We have to clean a heck of a lot of dishes in our meal program. Most of that energy to heat, clean and disinfect those dishes is going to come from the solar system and this water heat recovery system," said Stewart.
With the dishwasher's waste heat recovery system, hot drain water runs through a heat exchanger. Essentially, the heat transfers into the cold water, saving energy by putting less strain on the hot water heater.
Engineering the waste heat recovery system is David Morrow, president of Hydraft Development Services Inc. He said that the new technology will also reduce electricity needs.
"With that in mind, the economics of the entire package come off a lot better," said Morrow.
Inspired by the Vatican's turn to solar energy, Stewart decided three years ago that the Marian Centre ought to set money aside and take the same approach.
"The decision was partly price-driven, but also responsibility-driven. We have to look after this planet that the Lord has given us," said Stewart.
Akin to a thermos bottle, the evacuated tubes on the roof will take the solar energy and convert that radiant energy for use in heating water.
ENERGY FROM SUNLIGHT
Even with an outside temperature of -35C, the evacuated tubes can still draw energy from the sunlight. The result is that little natural gas will be required to heat water during daytime hours.
Harold Verburg and Gary Stokes, both from Trimline Design Centre, were busy installing the evacuated tubes Sept. 22. Verburg estimated that the Marian Centre would save between 60 and 70 per cent on its natural gas bills.
The total project cost is an estimated $40,000. An anonymous benefactor donated $10,000 towards the project. Also contributing is the Northern Alberta chapter of the Solar Energy Society. The capital investment will be repaid in 15 to 20 years.
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