A multi-year investment to the tune of $5.7 million has been announced from a variety of governments and agencies to help create opportunities in the wood biomass industry of the NWT.The initiative, led by the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, Natural Resources Canada and the Government of the Northwest Territories, hopes to provide more jobs and business opportunities for First Nation communities.
“The funding will be used to create a sustainable industry, generate long-term jobs, and reduce energy costs in communities,” according to a news release.
“This will enable NWT communities to have increased control over local forestry resources and reduce dependence on imported fossil fuel.”
Tom Lakusta, manager of forest resources with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said the GNWT had been looking into decreasing its carbon footprint for quite some time.
“Increasingly the government had been looking to see whether it could switch to heating with wood pellets, which is half the cost of heating with propane or oil,” he said.
“The federal government looked at what we were doing and liked our direction, so we are now in the second year of a three-year funding agreement with them to help us expand our programming.”
The agreement is part of the NWT Biomass Energy Strategy implemented in Feb. 2010.
Biomass Energy is defined as “All forms of renewable energy derived directly or indirectly from organic plant materials produced by the process of photosynthesis.”
The funds will go towards a number of areas: forest vegetation and inventory, assessing sustainability, help with community capacity development, setting up wood marshalling yards and other related ventures according to Leslie Cole, communications advisor for CanNor.
Conversely they will not be used to fund private ventures, such as the wood pellet manufacturing plant local businessman Brad Mapes hopes to establish in Enterprise by next summer.
The benefits of heating with wood pellets have been embraced by businesses in Hay River.
Rowe’s Construction has been heating seven of their buildings – three residential and four commercial – with biomass boilers for years.
“We tried it on a new facility to see whether or not it would work and it turned out to be a good option,” said Jack Rowe, co-owner of the company.
“The boilers are atmospheric not pressurized, so basically you’re just heating water to heat your domestic requirements. Maintenance is fairly simple and the savings are substantial. I’ve had one at my home for four winters and it has paid for itself already.”
Other benefits such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions, easy storage, availability and sustainability mean that the popularity of pellet heating is quickly growing in Hay River.
More and more homes are turning to wood-pellet stoves for heating.
Lakusta said concerns regarding air emissions are unfounded: “People may complain about a lot of wood being burnt in chimneys but the new boilers burn pellets that are just as emission-free as all the diesel furnaces.”
Furthermore, biomass boilers heat four schools in town: L’École Boréale, Diamond Jenness Secondary School, Princess Alexandra School and Harry Camsell School.