Burns Lake Investigates Bioenergy Potential To Develop A New Downtown Community Energy System

In 2011, Village of Burns Lake received a $12,642 grant from Northern Development through the Feasibility Studies program towards this $44,249 project. This has been a funding partnership of Village of Burns Lake, Northern Development, Nechako-Kitamaat Development Fund Society, and Omineca Beetle Action Coalition

2012-Burns Lake is an important service community located in the heart of northern British Columbia, about 222 km west of Prince George. The Village has a population of 3,614 residents, many who are solely dependent on the forest industry. As Burns Lake has been identified as the epicentre of the Mountain Pine Beetle epidemic, and as the municipality is looking at a number of strategies to support and diversify the local forestry-based economy, the Village is planning a bioenergy fuelled community heating network.

The new community energy system is proposed to heat key municipal and downtown buildings in Burns Lake through the use of a heat-only boiler system especially suited for remote and small communities. The boiler system will generate thermal energy through hot water, which is heated by the combustion of biomass. The heat is distributed to customers in the form of hot water conducted through a network of underground, insulated pipes.

In order to develop the community’s envisioned bioenergy heating network, the Village of Burns Lake is undertaking a comprehensive feasibility study that will incorporate pre-engineering and system design. This project will evaluate and provide information to inform the construction and operation of Burns Lake’s district energy system, including base and peak heating load calculations, selection of an appropriate type and size of biomass system, identify possible heating plant sites, determine the sizes and layout of the piping network, develop analysis for both the initial and annual costs, and establish the biomass resource requirements.

This project will also provide the Village of Burns Lakewith information to confirm the district energy system’s governance model and capital requirements for construction. Additionally, the project will serve to promote the development of similar bio-energy projects throughout the Omineca Beetle Action Coalition region.

Positive Economic Impacts in Burns Lake

The Community Heating Network will position the Village of Burns Lake as a leader in energy efficiency. Biomass is a sustainable, renewable energy source that supports the community's local forest industry. Biomass for the proposed district heating network will come from local wood waste, supporting and diversifying local economic growth. The system will significantly reduce the Village of Burns Lake's greenhouse gas emissions, displacing approximately 410 tons of CO2 per year, while leading to significant energy savings.

By documenting the process and publicizing the results of this project and the future proposed infrastructure project, Burns Lake will showcase the viability and cost effectiveness of a community bioenergy heating system for other small towns in the region.

The proposed bioenergy district heating system will have direct benefits to the Village of Burns Lake and surrounding businesses within the communities downtown as well as within the local forestry sector. The operational savings that may be realized by utilizing a sustainable supply of local wood fibre to heat downtown buildings rather than the current use of natural gas can be directed to supporting and developing other municipal services within the community.

One of the outstanding successes of the project already, is the number and diversity of local community partners that have joined the Community Heating Initiativem that is driving the need for this feasibility study. Led by the Village of Burns Lake, a variety of organizations are actively involved in developing this major capital project, including the Burns Lake Native Development Corporation, Northern Health, the College of New Caledonia, and Lake Babine Nation. Should the feasibility study inform the Village of Burns Lake to proceed with this major capital infrastructure project, the municipality anticipates a number of direct and indirect economic benefits for the community. Achieving recognition for the innovative use of local and sustainable resources will differentiate Burns Lake and its downtown core from other communities as they market the Village to attract new investment and small business.

Feasibility Studies

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