Korean researchers learn from Drake Landing

Okotoks: Solar community drawing international attention

By: Don Patterson

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Apr 25, 2012 10:18 am

Doug McClenahan, with Natural Resources Canada, explains how the Drake Landing Energy Centre works to Soolyeon Chu from North Carolina State University and Euy-Joon Lee from the Korea Institute of Energy Research.
Doug McClenahan, with Natural Resources Canada, explains how the Drake Landing Energy Centre works to Soolyeon Chu from North Carolina State University and Euy-Joon Lee from the Korea Institute of Energy Research.
Don Patterson/OWW

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A group of researchers from South Korea put the Drake Landing Solar Community’s geothermal heating technology under the microscope last week.

A delegation from the Korea Institute of Energy Research toured the Drake Landing Energy Centre on April 19 to see the cutting-edge technology firsthand and to investigate its potential ahead of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

“My country’s interest is CO2 free villages – no-green-house-gas villages – that’s the major interest of my country,” said Euy-Joon Lee, the institute’s principal researcher and head of building solar and geothermal energy.

He hopes the technology could be implemented in South Korea and could even be used in facilities built for the 2018 Olympics.

The solar community is a joint partnership between Natural Resources Canada, the Town of Okotoks, ATCO Gas, developer United Communities and home builder Sterling Homes. The 52-home community was built as a pilot project to test the unique solar heating technology. Solar panels installed on garages behind the homes are used to heat a fluid, which is then pumped underground during the summer months to store the heat. In the winter, the heat energy is then used to heat the homes in the community and natural gas is used to top up additional heating needs.

Lee arranged the visit after hearing about Drake Landing winning the Energy Globe World Award at a ceremony in Austria last year.

“That brought us here to come to share the experience, the design and commissioning and operation of this solar community,” he said.

Lee wanted to learn about the economics and reliability of the technology and he plans to share what he learned in Okotoks with colleagues in Korea.

After the visit the group traveled to Ottawa where it was scheduled to participate in workshops with officials from Natural Resources Canada.

Doug McClenahan, the agency’s research and development manager for solar/thermal technology, said they have been working with Korea in a number of areas. He said the delegation expressed interest in the technology and wanted to see Drake Landing in person.

“They’re really investing a lot in the area of energy efficiency and renewable energy and they heard about this project,” he said.

More than seven years after construction began on the solar community, it continues to garner international attention.

“We’ve had interest from Japan, China and just the other day from the UK, from Eastern Europe,” said McClenahan. “There are a lot of people who love the concept that you can get almost 100 per cent of your energy for heating in a cool climate from the sun.”

The projected has exceeded the accomplishments of other similar developments.

McClenahan said Drake Landing is approaching the 95 per cent solar fraction threshold (where 95 per cent of home heating needs are met by solar energy), which is a new world record.

“It’s getting a lot of attention around the world and when you start getting to that high a level people start asking ‘how are they doing that? We haven’t done it to that level before, can we learn something from them.’” he said.

The project’s partners are now looking at taking the technology to the next level by developing a large-scale solar community with between 200 to 1,000 homes.

Okotoks mayor Bill Robertson is proud of the attention Drake Landing has brought to the town.

“It’s phenomenal and it’s the way of the future so it’s nice to be on the cutting edge,” he said. “This is the example that is taken around the world.”


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