The Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre is looking at the economic spin-offs that could come from taking part in the biomass industry.

The centre recently received $170,000 from the federal government to develop new projects in solar and biomass energy.

The centre's director, Tom Vair, said the biomass industry could create a lot of jobs for the city.

“I’m optimistic ... I think there’s a real opportunity here," he said. "The technology is starting to reach a commercial state where there’s real business opportunities.”

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The Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre has received money from the federal government for renewable energy projects, and the centre is looking at biomass projects.

Vair said he believes green energy is a great business investment for the city.

“The numbers that we’ve been looking at are based on creating 200 jobs based on these energy projects,” he said.

“And [the] new companies ... would drive revenue back to the community.”

He said the technology is less carbon-intensive than fossil fuel production, and added it uses materials like wood and plants that are abundant in the area.

A professor of microbiology at Laurentian University said he’s a fan of biomass, but added some of his colleagues are worried because the technology could threaten the sustainability of some forests.

“We don’t have the full picture yet,” Nathan Basiliko said.

“I suspect the answer’s going to be, ‘You can do this some places but not all places.’ And then [there is] trying to figure whether or not a forest can sustain more intensified biomass removal.”

Basiliko said scientists won’t know the full impact of biomass production for years.