Photo by Chung Chow
Long-time Richmond resident, Lynn Mueller is a man on a mission. Because of the company he started and runs,SHARC International Systems Inc., Mueller is now a finalist for the national Manning Innovation Award.
Mueller explains how is company’s innovative system works, “We see heat go down the drain. We recover all that heat when people shower, wash their dishes and all that stuff. We use it to heat more water or heat the building.”
It’s worth it. Saying SHARC’s system in 500 per cent efficient, Mueller explains, “For every dollar in cost, we can recover five dollars’ worth of heat.”
SHARC’s heat recovery system works. Already operating at the False Creek energy centre under the Cambie St. Bridge, “Our system heats a million square feet of apartments there.”
Explaining that otherwise wasted heat is used to both heat and cool 5,000 units in downtown Vancouver.
The facility is the tall stacks to the east of the Cambie St.Bridge, at the south end.
“A large portion of sewage water that leaves downtown is pumped through that pumping station. We interrupt that flow, run it through a heat pump, recover the heat from that,” Mueller says.
In summer, instead of extracting heat, SHARC’s system dumps heat from the same buildings into the sewage water, allowing for the same system to air condition that million square feet at a much lower cost than usual.
The system is large. “It goes all the way, delivering heat and cooling, from Cambie to Knight Street,” he says. As big as that installation is, Mueller says, “It’s going to double in size.”
Six years ago, Gateway Theatre installed a SHARC system.
Mueller says, “The City of Richmond was able to secure a federal grant for energy efficiency improvements. We worked with them to install first SHARC system in the world.”
Mueller says as the waste water flows out of the theatre, the SHARC system, “Takes care of all the heating requirement for the building. In the summer, it takes the heat from the building and puts it back into the sewer line, so there is no need for a cooling tower to air condition the theatre.”
“It was neat to do the first commercial building here. I absolutely love living in Richmond and I love the city. At that time, we didn’t know were going to become a worldwide entity.”
“My background is I’m a farmer from Alberta, that school did not agree with particularly. I am a refrigeration mechanic so I have always understood heat movement very, very well.”
Also, he says with a smile, “I’ve always been cursed with a mind that does mathematics very very quickly.”
As the holder of over 500 patent applications in his lifetime, Mueller calls himself, “a serial inventor and entrepreneur.”
In spite of his long hours, he’s up by 5:30 a.m. every day, Mueller says with a glint, “I’ve very seldom had a real job.”
Lynn Mueller is one of only three nominees in all of the BC Yukon district for the Earnest C. Manning Innovation Award for his work with SHARC Systems.
Asked how he feels about the nomination, Mueller says, “Well, I’m absolutely thrilled to be included in that group of people. To know the kind of innovation that comes in Canada, it’s just amazing the ingenuity and brilliance of Canadians. To be included in that group, as an older gentleman that has aspirations to make the world better is great. It doesn’t have to rest with 20-year-olds; old farts like me can do stuff to make things better.”
With offices and sales on three continents, SHARC has gone global in their projects.
“We’ve just finished one in Washington, DC. It’s the greenest building in North America. SHARC provides heating, air conditioning and hot water for 170,00 square feet of the office building.” That’s about four acres, the size of the Richmond Sharing Farm, heated or cooled with waste heat.
When we think of sewage, we think of flushed toilets but, in reality, waste water includes water from baths, showers, kitchen sinks, dish washers, clothes washers. Most of our waste water has been heated before it is discarded.
“Every year in the world there’s 938 trillion litres of sewage goes into the oceans that has been warmed up 10 to 20 Celsius degrees. When you think how much ice that hot water can melt in the oceans, the effect is unnatural.”
Mueller says of his system, “The simple effect is that all this heat can all be reused. Why not use that energy first before we start drilling and fracking? Everything we do offsets the use of natural gas.”
Mueller gives back. Both in the soup he quietly makes and serves in the Downtown Eastside each Saturday night and with his firm: “I’m not working for myself anymore. I’m working to make the world a better place for my kids and my grandchildren, better for my grandkids and everybody’s kids.”
The winner of the Manning Innovation Award will be announced Oct 24 in Toronto.