How Cities Are Getting Smart With Industrial Heating

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What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.

It’s a famous slogan with varying connotations depending on who you ask, but if you’re MGM Resorts, it has taken on a sly meaning in the last few months. MGM operates 13 casinos in the city, including the likes of New York New York, Aria, Bellagio, The Mirage and Excalibur. On any one day, that’s thousands of people staying in their hotels, playing casinos games and having a great time. In essence, MGM has a city within a city. 

Doing what they do though involves not just a lot of power, but an enormous level of power. Any way a company can bring the cost of electric and heating bills down (or cooling if you think of the air conditioning a casino needs) is going to be sought out. MGM is taking a proactive approach that most big businesses would never think of; they decided to pay a company to install 336,000 solar panels 25 miles north of Las Vegas. 

Instead of having to pay any more electric bills, they’re bypassing the local electric company in a significant way and generating energy on their own terms. It is estimated to be enough to power the equivalent of 27,000 homes non-stop. They’re taking a brilliant gamble that harnessing clean solar energy in an enormous capacity will pay off in the long-term (which it will). 

It’s the kind of out of the box thinking many big companies, and even cities are using to take industrial heating to the next level. Don’t believe it? Then why not take a visit to Norway. 

Have you ever been to Drammen? 

Just about 20 miles southeast of Oslo is a lovely little city called Drammen. It’s a riverside city that is picturesque and the perfect distance for families who want to move out of the city but still be able to commute for work. 

That’s what’s been happening for the last thirty years. The once small population has ballooned in size. While it’s great for the local community to grow, it created a pretty big problem in a “cold country”; what happens when everyone wants their heating on at night? 

The city has a district heating system, where everyone is hooked up to the one system and heat is dispersed accordingly. In this case, the fjord where water was pulled in and pumped for heat was just not warm enough to generate heat to meet demand. 

So what happens when a city can’t get warm? They call in the Scots! 

Star Refrigeration, a small industrial heating company, based on the outskirts of Glasgow, had a trick up its sleeve to get an entire Danish city nice and warm without resorting to means that required chemicals and increased carbon dioxide production: they’d pump things up. 

They realised that the fjords while looking great, weren’t the best source for heating an entire city. Instead, they used pressure to their advantage. Using just ammonia and a neat pump system, they could boost pressure and in turn get systems to heat up as hoped. The hard part isn’t the heating but keeping coolants under control. Usually, this involves hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants, which are so much more harmful than carbon dioxide that you wouldn’t want anything to do with them. 

By switching to neat pumps and using a natural refrigerant (mini-fridges and some coolers use ammonia), they managed to keep the town pulling water from fjords and lower emissions to the point where they’re closer to being carbon neutral. 

The Power Of Nature 

It is incredible what examples like those we’ve seen here can do to get smart and improve industrial heating. Here’s hoping more cities can lead by example and implement measures which aren’t just cool to see but see money being saved; precisely what you want when trying to be frugal.

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