District heating is the process of using a network of insulated pipes used to deliver hot water or steam from the point of generation to end users. District heating is often used for residential areas, industries and universities, and its use avoids the need to produce heat in individual homes, while still allowing for efficient transfer of this heat.
This heat can be provided directly from sources such as fossil fuel, solar energy and geothermal district heating plants, heat pumps using electricity, or fuel cells. It can also come as a by-product of electrical generation in a cogeneration plant. Once the hot water or steam is produced in a plant, it can travel up to 30 km or further if there are multiple heat sources connected together.
The Drake Landing solar project in Okotoks, AB, Canada is a district heating system that makes use of the Sun's radiant energy. It takes in heat via solar collectors year-round, stores most underground during the summer, then uses this heat during the cold winter months. 52 homes make use of this energy, and 97% of their space heating needs are supplied by it. Visit the page here for more information.
There are a few clear advantages of using district heating: