The Town of Hay River is looking into expanding its energy efficiency.
According to Mayor Andrew Cassidy, the town is currently doing its own independent energy audits and taking measures to use more efficient energy.
But recently, town council learned they could potentially do a whole lot more.
Louis Azzolini, the executive director of Arctic Energy Alliance, came to council earlier this month to present the benefits of biomass for heating fuel or a wood pellet boiler.
“Central heating from renewable resources is definitely something we’re looking at, but we’re not quite there yet as a council,” said Cassidy. “That decision will come when we are more certain about town hall, when we have better plans for all our infrastructure.”
Wood pellet boilers offer a large savings on heating bills. Such a boiler was installed in the Arctic Energy Alliance’s 10,000-square-foot building in Yellowknife. It saved more than $9,000 a year in heating costs, which decreased from around $29,000 per year to about $20,000 per year.
A pellet boiler could save a building roughly between 30-50 per cent of its yearly heating bill when switching from oil to pellets, said Azzolini.
“With electricity rates going up 25 per cent in the next three to four years, there’s a push to help people save energy or create their own,” he said. “Hay River is already taking action to reduce energy consumption. The town pool has some of the most advanced, energy-efficient lighting in the NWT. With council direction, we hope staff can support more things like this.”
With the prices of solar panels dropping, and rebates offered by the government of the NWT for buying things like energy-efficient appliances, Azzolini said efficiency is becoming more affordable for more people.
But there are still some upfront expenses. Installation of a pellet boiler heating system for a building or cluster of buildings could cost upwards of $30,000. But, this can be offset by a reimbursement grant of up to $15,000 from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ renewable energy fund program.
“These things don’t happen overnight,” said Azzolini. “The town certainly has many public works projects on the go so they have to decide how they would bring that in the fold. There is a cost to installing a biomass heating system, but that spending would be recovered in savings.”
Azzolini said the Town of Hay River could potentially benefit from even more cost savings with the town’s proximity to the Alberta border and a wood pellet mill in the works for the area.
Right now, many facilities and apartment buildings in Yellowknife are heated using pellet boilers, as is Hay River’s Ptarmigan Inn.
“Hay River has the opportunity to make a statement by looking at alternate forms of fuel,” said Cassidy. “We’d want to take a look at all possibilities and getting the best value that we can.”