Wood chips pitched to heat Haliburton
|By Alex Coop - Staff Writer | September 28, 2017|
Dysart council gave consultants the green light to gauge the downtown core’s interest in a wood chip-fuelled district energy system that was presented to councillors Sept. 25.
“It is a capital-intensive project,” said Jamie Stephen, managing director of TorchLight Bioresources Inc., a Canadian consulting and research company specializing in bio resources, biomass energy, and bio products. “But you’re saving on the operating costs, and that’s really where the opportunity lies.”
The project, which according to Stephen’s report to council was first presented to Dysart Reeve Murray Fearrey and chief administrative officer Tamara Wilbee Sept. 15, is a system that can provide heat to multiple buildings using underground water pipes.
The water in the pipes is heated by a central energy centre, that could cost anywhere between $700,000 to $1.2 million, and be distributed to buildings in the network. Existing heating oil systems could be retained for backup, explained Stephen, and hot water could be heated by the wood-fueled network as well. The central energy centre, according to Stephen, would be approximately 50 by 80 feet, and plans presented to council indicate it could be located at the end of Maple Ave. by the municipal office.
“In some cases, the wood chip storage is underground,” said Stephen after the meeting. “We will be working with council, the CAO and the building department to identify appropriate locations and available space. The building can be designed to fit the space.” Downtown cores in Toronto and Vancouver use similar systems for heat, but largely use natural gas as fuel.
The proposal in Haliburton would use wood chips produced by Haliburton Forest and Wild Life Reserve’s sawmill as fuel. Haliburton Forest has been in discussions about the proposal for several weeks, said Malcolm Cockwell, the company’s managing director.
“We are currently selling all of our wood chips, mostly to the pulp and paper industry. The opportunity to see them used locally as a fuel that would displace fossil fuels is very exciting,” Cockwell told The Highlander. “The volume of wood chips that we currently produce far exceeds the demand that would be presented by a district energy system.”
Stephen told councillors that the Forest’s wood chip supply is about 20,000 tonnes. The energy system would use approximately 1,000 tonnes per year. There is currently no connection between the district energy system proposal and the Forest’s biochar facility, which was granted a zoning amendment after an Ontario Municipal Board hearing Aug. 30, he added. “[The biochar project] is focused on the production of high quality biochar from wood fibre produced at our sawmill,” said Cockwell.
Depending on what type of layout the municipality selects, capital costs for a district energy system in Haliburton range from $450,000 to $2.5 million, (excluding the energy centre), said Stephen. Four models were presented to council Monday.
Layouts vary from a full downtown system that includes municipal buildings and a large portion of Highland Street and Maple Avenue to a small cluster of buildings incorporating the A.J LaRue arena and the municipal office. The capital cost would be steep, but with $100 million of provincial money on the table – coming from the Ontario Municipal Greenhouse Gas Challenge – the financial burden on Dysart would be significantly reduced, said Stephen.
If the municipality is interested, Torchlight, alongside Biothermic, a provider of fully automated biomass boilers in eastern Canada, according to its website, will work together to submit an application before the Nov. 14 deadline. Mike Rutter, an MSc engineer for Biothermic, was also at the meeting.
The application process will not cost the municipality any money, said Stephen, adding their rough analysis of the required piping and other technical details can be analyzed at no cost by a civil engineer in Vancouver, whom they have a good relationship with. Peter Brady, broker for Trophy Property Corp., attended the council meeting and was very receptive to the presentation.
A district energy system would lower heating bills, and attract new businesses to the downtown area, while providing incentive to existing businesses to remain there, he said. Rutter recently installed a wood pellet boiler at Abbey Gardens, which heats both Haliburton Highlands Brewing (4,200 square feet) and Haliburton Solar and Wind (1,400 square feet) buildings, said Heather Reid, director of operations. “Last year was the first year of use so it’s challenging to accurately reflect the cost [of heating],” she told The Highlander.
ALEX COOP is a reporter for The Highlander.