Our Aim
Sunnyside Environmental School

Create a neighborhood thermal energy utility using renewable, carbon-neutral sources to power Sunnyside Environmental School and provide space heat and domestic hot water to serve a 54 square block neighborhood which includes a mix of residential and commercial customer/owners.

Project Overview
Sunnyside Neighborhood Energy (SunNE) is conceived as a comprehensive solution to local thermal energy needs. SunNE is a project of Northwest Neighborhood Energy (N2E), a new non-profit incorporated in Oregon. SunNE will eventually be structured as a community-owned district energy (DE) utility powered by renewable sources that will serve Sunnyside Environmental School and the surrounding historic neighborhood and commercial areas. The project is modeled on existing mid-sized DE utilities in Sweden, Denmark and Canada, which use solar thermal storage and biofuel boilers to provide thermal energy for detached single-family homes, multi-family residential and small commercial buildings. Adapting these successful international examples for implementation in Oregon gives us a scalable, replicable model whose economic and environmental impact will be tremendous.

Planned system components include thermal solar collectors, mass thermal storage for heating and anticipated cooling, combining water to water and ground-coupled heat pump technology, waste heat recovery, PV arrays and biofuel boilers for boosting and back-up. A distribution system of hydronic insulated pipes will deliver hot and chilled water for space heating, cooling and domestic hot water to the school, several hundred nearby residences, and commercial buildings. SunNE will operate as a member-owned, unregulated franchise utility within the City of Portland.

Diagram of energy platform at Sunnyside School connected to residences by insulated pipes under the streets.
Project Components

1) Energy Platform: Based at the center of this neighborhood energy project is Sunnyside Environmental School. The ‘platform’ houses an array of photovoltaic collectors, on the roof, to power an on-site ground source heat pump, GSHP, combined with additional thermal solar collectors on commercial roofs in a distributed network. Thermal storage will improve system efficiency by connecting energy supplied with demand side. This mass storage is proposed to be sited in underground tanks below the Sunnyside Park, a one square block connected to Sunnyside School. The system will be additionally ‘boosted’ and backed-up with a bio-fuel boiler when demanded. Controls and boosting boilers will be located in the existing school boiler room, providing a revenue stream for the school, while optimizing existing resources in a unique partnering agreement.

2) District Distribution System: A series of engineered underground pipes to distribute hot (hydronic) water to the school and surrounding residences and commercial buildings, forming a thermal energy loop. Energy will be metered on demand. The potential of a cooling loop will also be explored in the feasibility study. These systems have been proven financially viable and environmentally sound in many locations around the world. Specific examples are abundant and applicable in Denmark.

3) Customers: Residential and commercial customers can convert from current fossil fuel systems by replacing them with metered heat exchangers which provide hot water on demand and space heating through conventional air handlers that utilize existing ductwork. Boiler systems are replaced with heat exchangers. Hydronic air handlers are installed in existing furnace systems. Homeowners can leave their existing systems in place for redundancy.

Community Energy Diagram - Multiple fuels produce hot and chilled water that is distributed to a variety of customer buildings (Source: DE St. Paul)

The Opportunity
• Sunnyside Environmental School, located in Portland, Oregon currently has a 1917 fuel oil boiler, scheduled for replacement. The boiler uses 18,000 gallons of fuel oil annually. The school principal and site council support our proposal.
• Portland Public Schools central administration is interested in energy savings, revenue streams and enhanced community involvement.
• The Sunnyside Neighborhood has a history of activism on environmental and energy issues, including a new sustainability committee.
• Oregon Business Energy Tax Credit and other current state and federal tax incentives drive down the hard costs of the system.
• Successful implementation will demonstrate a triple bottom line model that may be replicated throughout the city and state. This pilot project creates a new prototype for neighborhood-scaled distributed energy production and use.