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Vancouver’s Green Olympics

With the 2010 Winter Olympic Games set to leap out of the starting gate on February 12, we thought it would appropriate to highlight some of the initiatives that are helping make the 2010 Vancouver Games the “greenest” and most sustainable Olympic games ever.

As the Globe and Mail reported last week, in Whistler, BC, the sight of the alpine skiing and sliding events for the 2010 Winter Olympics, Innergex Renewable Energy Inc., is days away generating electricity from its $33 million 7.9 megawatt small-scale hydroelectric facility on Fitzsimmons Creek. Innergex signed a 40 year electricity purchase agreement with BC Hydro and the Fitzsimmons Creek Hydro Electric Project will generate an estimated 33,000 MWh annually of green electrons, enough to supply the two ski resorts at Whistler and Blackcomb.
BC Hydro, which produces 80% of the Province’s electricity from major hydro-electric generating stations located on the Columbia and Peace Rivers, and BCTC will be providing most of the electricity for the Olympic venues, but some venues will have IOC mandated diesel power generators as added redundancy for broadcasting and scorekeeping purposes. As the Vancouver Sun reported, this has been no small task, especially with respect to the International Broadcast Centre.
Other notable “green” initiatives involving the 2010 Olympic Games include:
To help offset an individual’s carbon footprint while attending the Games, official Olympic supplier Offsetters is offering an official Olympic pin in return for your purchase of one tonne of carbon offsets ($25). Offsetter’s has set up a booth at the Vancouver International Airport where the carbon offsets may be purchased.
As we previously blogged about, Canada Hockey Place and the other skating venues will feature electric ice-resurfacer’s (zamboni’s), which will no doubt be very busy during the Games.
The City of Vancouver recently revealed North America’s first neighbourhood energy centre which uses sewage to create enough heat and hot water for the Olympic Village site and thousands of residences and businesses in the southeast False Creek area of Vancouver. The $30 million facility will use heat recovered from untreated waste water to heat the neighbourhood in lieu of traditional gas or electric heat. Here is the Vancouver Sun’s recent article profiling the facility.
The Resort Municipality of Whistler recently upgraded its waste water treatment plant which will be used to heat and cool the athlete’s village in Whistler.
Even Olympic sponsor Coca-Cola will use the Games to demonstrate new non-hydro fluorocarbon using vending machines at 1,400 locations.
Vancouver’s own Pulse Energy, an energy management software company, has set up a fascinating website that provides real-time energy consumption at selected Olympic venues.
Finally, while not an Olympic venue, but certainly a landmark nobody will miss overlooking the City of Vancouver, Grouse Mountain’s 1.5 MW wind turbine is expected to operational in time for the start of the Games. Be sure to check out the turbine’s unique viewing deck located 57m above the ground.
The 2010 Games are turning out to be an excellent showcase for BC’s low-carbon business innovation and the Province’s natural endowment of green energy resources. Kudos to those who have made this possible.
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February 3, 2010 Update. The David Suzuki Foundation awarded the Vancouver Olympics with bronze medal in a “climate scorecard”.  As the Vancouver Sun reported today, the Vancouver-based foundation gave the Olympic organizers credit for innovative and energy-efficient venues, and for mainly using clean hydroelectric energy but also alternatives such as waste heat from refrigeration systems, landfill methane, and ground-source heat pumps.
February 10 Update: Here is VANOC’s press release on its sustainability report.