Canada’s first fully hydrogen-powered community is to be built and studied in Alberta.
Utility provider ATCO and real estate developer Qualico are partnering on what they are calling the Bremner neighbourhood in Strathcona County near Edmonton.
Construction of the project is scheduled to start this year. The first residents will be able to move in by 2025, the companies announced Tuesday morning.
“The intent is, with a pure hydrogen home, everything will be pretty much the same with respect to building these new homes. So the only thing that we’re really changing is the source of energy, which is from natural gas to pure hydrogen,” Qualico’s vice president of community development in northern Alberta Brad Armstrong explained.
“So the only changes that you might have are the regulators, or the meters, on the exterior part of the house. And then the furnace appliance itself.”
That means the cost of construction shouldn’t change much, he added.
The study will examine the logistics of delivering hydrogen to consumers as well as technological and regulatory needs. Existing legislation is only written for natural gas, ATCO Gas president Jason Sharpe pointed out.
“The energy cost is actually one of the things we really want to flush out with this study. Essentially, we expect hydrogen to be the same cost as natural gas with carbon tax by 2030. But how that goes through to someone’s house is really important to figure out what those economics look like and how we recover that. Because right now, the rules are not clear.”
While ATCO and Qualico are aiming to have the new homes fully fuelled by hydrogen from the get-go, they acknowledged Tuesday that doing so depends on getting all of the necessary approvals in time and on the availability of hydrogen-equipped appliances – like cooktops – in Canada.
The hydrogen that will immediately power heat and water utilities will come from the region’s hydrogen hub.
One hundred and fifty homes of different types will be built in each of the first two development stages. The first phase will also see the construction of a demonstration home.
The community will be designed to support between 80,000 and 85,000 residents in total.
“We believe the demand is going to be there because what we’re hearing from consumers is that everybody has an interest in reducing their carbon footprint,” Armstrong said. “The question is: Do they want to pay for it or are they prepared to pay for it? And we’re hoping that in Bremner they’ll be able to find an affordable house that has zero emissions heating and they can reduce their carbon footprint.”
The community will look no different from any other, he promised.
“People won’t really notice much difference when they come into Bremner.”
$20M HANDED OUT TO HYDROGEN PROJECTS
The study is partially being funded by a $2-million grant from Alberta’s Hydrogen Centre of Excellence, run by Alberta Innovates.
Established in 2022 as part of the province’s “hydrogen roadmap,” the centre’s task is to make Alberta a leader in hydrogen innovation.
The $2 million for the Bremner community study was only a small chunk of more than $20 million the centre announced for hydrogen projects on Tuesday in its first round of funding.
Seventeen other projects also received funding varying in amounts from $2 million to $225,000.
Air Products, which is building a hydrogen facility near Edmonton, also received $2 million for a portable hydrogen fueler.
Another $2 million was assigned to each Aurora Hydrogen and the Battle River Carbon Hub.
The University of Calgary will receive more than $1 million for three different projects.
A full list of projects that were awarded funding is available online.
With files from CTV News Edmonton’s EvanKlippenstein