Canada’s Green University is showing again why it has that title.
“We trademarked Canada’s Green University about a year ago,” UNBC associate dean for graduate program Ian Hartley said at a news conference Friday morning at the school. “All areas of the school work together on issues of sustainability.”
Some of those areas will be part of a biomass gasification project, for which the provincial government announced $3.5 million in funding at the news conference.
“The project will not be just for heat,” Hartley noted, “but will also reduce greenhouse gases.”
The project will see UNBC work with Nexterra Energy Corporation to put in a system which will gasify mountain pine beetle infested biomass, turning it into heat for the university’s buildings.
“This is the first time this is being done at a Canadian university,” Technology, Trade and Economic Development Minister Ida Chong said in announcing the project, along with 14 others being funded under the Innovative Clean Energy (ICE) Fund. “It has the potential to reduce fossil fuel use by 80 per cent here.”
Hartley said the heating project will serve other roles as well.
“It will serve as a teaching and living laboratory for students at the school, as well as serving as a demonstration for small communities in Northern B.C.”
Nexterra president and CEO Jonathan Rhone was at UNBC for the announcement, and was very excited.
“We started talking to the school about this earlier this year. There’s obviously more work to be done before the launch date.”
The UNBC plant will not be his company’s first venture into biomass gasification.
“Our first commercial plant was installed at a Tolko plywood plant, but this is a big step for us. We need commercial-scale demonstration sites, and the UNBC provides that opportunity.”
He says UNBC could see a lot of visitors in the next few years.
“A lot of universities are very interested in implementing green energy, especially with how the cost of fuel has escalated over the last few years.”
Prince George is the site for one of the other ICE projects, as Alterna Energy will build a plant here to produce bio-carbon (basically charcoal) and usable thermal energy from a variety of products.
“This has been more than three years in planning,” Alterna CEO Leonard Legault said. “We are developing technology currently being used in South Africa, improving it, and bringing it to North America standards.”
The South African plant converts agricultural waste, while the Prince George plant will start with forest wastes and mountain pine beetle biiomass. The potential exists to use different waste materials, such as municipal waste and scrap tires.
“We are certainly cognizant of the air-quality issues in Prince George,” Legault says, “and we haven’t made a decision on a location for the plant yet. We’re still talking to potential partners.”