Local group begins business plan for wood-waste heating system in Nakusp

Jim Guido, manager with the Ministry of Forests in Castlegar, Ken and Darcy Wanstall of Pacific Inland Pole, Hugh Watt of True North Forestry, Dan Wiebe of Box Lake Lumber, and Kathy Smith of NACFOR get a look at the wood waste at a local mill. - Photo by Tom Zeleznik
Jim Guido, manager with the Ministry of Forests in Castlegar, Ken and Darcy Wanstall of Pacific Inland Pole, Hugh Watt of True North Forestry, Dan Wiebe of Box Lake Lumber, and Kathy Smith of NACFOR get a look at the wood waste at a local mill.
— image credit: Photo by Tom Zeleznik

A local group of forest industry professionals has entered into an agreement with the Village of Nakusp to develop a business plan for a district biomass heating system.

The push for a district wood waste system that would provide heating to a number of buildings has been gaining momentum in recent months, with local mill owners pressing for a solution to their problem of excess wood waste. Dan Wiebe, the owner of Box Lake Lumber, says he is now paying $120,000 per year to ship his waste to the Celgar mill in Castlegar.

At a Nakusp council meeting last month, the village agreed to sign a memorandum of understanding with Wiebe and Tom Zeleznik of Pattom Services to develop the business case for a district heating system.

They will be working with David Dubois of Wood Waste 2 Rural Heat Project, a division of East Kootenay Community Futures that specializes in developing business plans for biomass heating projects; and Steven Thomson of 9dot Engineering.

The wood waste heating initiative has gathered steam this year. In January, the local group toured facilities in Revelstoke and Enderby. On Feb. 21, they hosted a visit by Jim Guido, a resource manager with the Ministry of Forests in Castlegar. During that visit, Wiebe, and Ken Wanstall, who owns Pacific Inland Pole, asked for advice and help on dealing with their abundance of wood waste.

According to Zeleznik, who was at the meeting, the ministry agreed to support local mills by helping to identify fuel sources, quality and volumes for a district heating system; writing a letter of support to the Columbia Basin Trust to help with grant funding, looking at rocky areas around Nakusp where the wood waste could be used to help improve the soil; and providing information on provincial funding opportunities.

On Feb. 24, the local group and the Village of Nakusp entered into an MoU to start a pre-feasibility study — the first step towards creating a business plan for the district heating system.

The matter was discussed behind closed doors, however the document the group presented to council was made public.

It outlines the economic and environmental benefits to the community of wood waste heating. It would create a source of local energy and help provide energy security. Construction would provide an economic boost and lead to an increase in local expertise and in the long-run it could help attract future business investment. The system would help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reduce energy costs for businesses and organizations connected to the system.

According to the proposal to council, the cost of wood biomass would be $0.03 per kilowatt hour compared to about $0.10/kwh for hydro.

The plan is to look at connecting the district heating system to buildings owned by the village, the high school and elementary school. Other potential clients would be the Nakusp day care centre, Overwaitea, Arrow Lakes Hospital, Halcyon House, Kal Tire and local hotels and motels.

The estimated cost for building the system would be $2 million dollars, most of which would have to come from gas tax funding to be viable. Operating costs would be minimal as most systems would be automated.

The exact business structure still needs to be determined but the desire is to create a public-private partnership between mill owners and the Village of Nakusp to build and run the system, though the exact structure is still to be determined.


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