Vicinity Energy provides district energy, as well as energy asset and infrastructure maintenance and upgrades to customers across the country including Cambridge. During 2022, the company made strides to ensure they reach their goal of net zero carbon emissions across all their operations by 2050 or sooner.
Electrifying District Energy Systems
District energy uses a centrally-located facility, or facilities, to generate thermal energy – heat, hot water, or chilled water – for commercial buildings that form an “energy district.” The energy is transported through underground pipes to meet the needs of Vicinity’s customers. Vicinity is in the process of electrifying their district energy systems by using technologies such as electric boilers, heat pumps, and thermal batteries.
In April 2022, Vicinity launched eSteam™, a carbon-free product designed to rapidly decarbonize the highest source of emissions in major cities: commercial buildings. In November, Vicinity officially kicked off their electrification plans with the decommissioning of a steam turbine at the Kendall Green Energy Cogeneration Facility. They will install an electric boiler in its place that will enter service in 2024, at which point Vicinity will procure electricity from renewable, carbon-free energy sources such as wind, solar, and hydro to generate eSteam™.
After eSteam is underway, Vicinity will turn its attention toward installing heat pumps that will likely be the largest heat pump complex in the state, possibly the nation. The pumps will use heat “lifted” from the Charles River to make eSteam™ and preheat eSteam™ boiler water.
The last technology Vicinity will use is a molten salt thermal battery, which will be installed at its Kendall facility. The battery will dramatically lower the cost of electrified steam, making it more accessible to Vicinity’s customers.
All told, by 2035, Vicinity’s investments will reduce the carbon footprint of their steam generation by 50% or 400,000.