P.E.I. Energy Corporation wants more wood chip biomass heating systems

The P.E.I. Energy Corporation is seeking proposals for wood-chip heating systems that would be housed in approximately 25 government-owned buildings.

Request for proposals covers 25 government-owned buildings

Alex Pratt's company harvests all its wood chips on P.E.I., he said. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

The P.E.I. Energy Corporation is seeking proposals for wood-chip heating systems that would be housed in approximately 25 government-owned buildings.

The province currently buys heat from 29 privately-owned biomass systems.

The request for proposals was published July 10 and will close on Sept. 14. It's being done through the federal Low Carbon Economy Fund, said corporation director and CEO Kim Horrelt.

Wood chips must be harvested in P.E.I.

"We're looking at wood chips mostly, but for some of the smaller installations where wood chips may not be economical, there's the possibility there could be some pellet furnaces," said Horrelt.

The RFP says the wood chips should be harvested in a sustainable way in P.E.I.

'That's a considerable amount of imported oil that we won't be burning,' says P.E.I. Energy Corporation CEO Kim Horrelt. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

"You don't want to be trucking wood across [to P.E.I.] That doesn't reduce your carbon footprint much if you're trucking it in," Horrelt said. 

"There's a big economic benefit to these biomass systems in the wood industry," Horrelt added.

Italian wood chipper

Wood 4 Heating Canada owns and operates 12 of P.E.I.'s existing biomass heating systems fuelled by wood chips.

Biomass operations manager Alex Pratt confirmed his company plans to bid for the right to provide for the government-owned buildings.

His company brought in a state-of-the-art wood chipper from Italy. They make chips from tree tops or from the brush left behind at sites that have been cleared.

"It makes a fine chip for our biomass plants, so it gives us the specific size that we need," Pratt said.

'We pretty well do it all'

Wood 4 Heating began six years ago when the RFP was sent out for the privately owned facilities that exist now, and they were awarded 12 of them.

"We're pretty well tip-to-tip," Pratt said. "Anywhere from hospitals to schools, to the provincial jail, care facilities, we pretty well do it all."

The company learned from practices in Europe, where this is commonplace, Pratt said.

"This is old technology over there, but it's cutting edge here. It's very sustainable here."

Methane burned inside system

Pratt called this round of proposals "a great opportunity" for the government.

"It makes economical sense for them to own the facilities this time around, so it will have great benefits for them."

A wood chipper takes brush left behind after a field in Mount Stewart, P.E.I. was cleared by its farmer. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

An advantage of biomass wood chip heating is gases toxic to the environment, like methane, are destroyed in the process of making the fuel, Pratt said.

"If you're burning your methane, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide within your system, then you're not releasing it into the air."

'Significant' reduction of greenhouse gases

If the company is awarded what they think they could get, it will "more than double our capacity," Pratt said.

Horrelt said 30 buildings are included in the RFP — including small schools and public buildings — but that the number in the end will probably be closer to 20.

"We think with these systems, we can save probably 4 million litres of oil. At least that's what the old system was saving and I think the new systems will save another 1.3 to 1.5 [million] and reduce greenhouse gases by significant tonnage," she said.

"So that's a considerable amount of imported oil that we won't be burning."

More P.E.I. news

With files from Nancy Russell


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