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Dalhousie University biomass plant providing power to the grid


December 19, 2018
By Dalhousie University

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Dec. 19, 2018 - Dalhousie University’s Agricultural Campus (AC) in Truro, N.S., officially opened its renewed $26.5-million Biomass Energy Plant, made possible, in part, through the Nova Scotia Community Feed-in Tariff (COMFIT) program. The plant will not only meet campus thermal needs with energy, it will also provide Nova Scotia Power with electricity.

The plant will burn biomass fuel in a thermal oil heater, creating heat that is converted to electricity through the use of an organic rankine cycle (ORC) system. Dalhousie is the first university in North America to use such technology.

“The Biomass Energy Plant not only helps meet our campus’ heating and thermal needs, it is on the cutting edge of sustainable technology and renewable energy practices,” says Dr. Richard Florizone, President of Dalhousie University. “We are already getting calls from other universities across the country looking at implementing similar technology.”

Dalhousie was approved to join the COMFIT program in 2014 as part of Nova Scotia’s ongoing efforts to move away from carbon-based electricity to achieve 40% renewable electricity sources by 2020. COMFIT encouraged community-based renewable energy projects by guaranteeing a rate per kilowatt-hour for the energy that feeds into the province’s distribution electrical grid. The program was designed to broaden ownership of renewable electricity in Nova Scotia and facilitate community investment in electricity projects.

“Dalhousie Agriculture’s Biomass Energy Plant will support local forestry businesses and provide power to the Nova Scotia grid and utilize heat generated from the electricity generation process to heat the Agriculture Campus,” says the Hon. Iain Rankin, Nova Scotia Minister of Lands and Forestry. “This is a great example of Dalhousie’s ongoing commitment to sustainability and energy efficiency.”

The opening of the Biomass-Fueled Energy Plant at the Agricultural Campus is one of many exciting transformations underway on the path to reaching carbon neutrality.

The Agricultural Campus is an ideal location for this type of showcase due to its size, land availability, energy sources and needs, geographical location and the existing university interest, research, teaching and operational focus on sustainability.

“This is yet another example of the Faculty of Agriculture applying cutting-edge theory and technology into practice,” says Dr. David Gray, Dean and Campus Principal. “Our campus continues to be our largest classroom and exposing our students to state-of-the-art technology and innovative solutions to real world problems remains a priority.”

Executive Director of Sustainability for Dalhousie, Rochelle Owen says work on this campus is one small part of many efforts across Dalhousie to meet energy and carbon goals

“Our project team was thinking holistically. This is why we focused our efforts on renewing many items from the biomass and silviculture approach to the district energy system and the plant itself. For example,by switching to a hot water distribution system from steam this is approximately 30 per cent more energy efficient.”

The plant began producing electricity in June 2018.


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