Study says N.W.T. communities could make own wood pellets

A study done by the Arctic Energy Alliance looked at creating small wood pellet factories in communities without year-round road access.
The Town of Inuvik, N.W.T., is currently trying to solve its energy problem, as its natural gas reserves ran out earlier than expected. Wood pellet stoves could work, but it is currently expensive to ship them to towns like Inuvik and others in the territory. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

Small communities could start making their own wood pellets, if the idea can be profitable.

This year, Arctic Energy Alliance commissioned two studies relating to wood pellets and how they can be made available to communities.

One looked at shipping wood pellets up the Mackenzie River by barge. The other is looking at creating small wood-pellet factories in communities which don't always have road access.

"We cut our own firewood and a lot of communities are interested in larger projects for their larger buildings. And some places like Fort McPherson are even talking about maybe harvesting some of the willows that grow around their community and chipping them," said Jim Sparling, who works with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

The research is part of $100,000 in extra funding announced for the Arctic Energy Alliance this year.

Sparling said that as the town of Inuvik, N.W.T., phases out of natural gas, the government expects more people will switch to wood stoves.

"Directly in response to the Inuvik situation, so they [pellets] are much more available. We think there will be a lot more demand for services in the coming year."

Sparling said wood-pellet stoves are more popular in the southern part of the territory. They are rarely used in communities where the pellets are expensive to ship and store.