By Andrew Macklin
February 10, 2016 - It looked for a while as if the NIMBY groups might get the better of them. But Pinnacle Renewable Energy Inc. persevered in its pursuit of its latest pellet mill and now construction is complete in Lavington.
NIMBY opposition to the plant was well-documented in the local news outlets, with newspapers and radio/TV outlets throughout the Okanagan Valley reporting regularly on the opposition to the plant. A community organization called Lavington Is For Everyone (LIFE) was one of the primary groups in opposition, citing pollution, traffic, fire/explosion risk and noise concerns that would be a result of the new operation.
There were also mounting concerns over the legwork done by the Ministry of Environment in ensuring that concerns were met from a dust and emissions standpoint. Many of those in opposition of the plant cited the assessments done by MoE as having serious flaws and that construction of the plant had to be halted until concerns were addressed.
All the while, the team at Pinnacle waded through a sea of red tape in order to get construction moving, working with WorkSafeBC on the design to create the safest design possible.
It is easy for many of us to shrug off the concerns of community groups as mindless chatter from people who didn’t think before buying a property near industrial properties or along high traffic routes. But in the case of the Lavington mill, the NIMBY fight for environmental protections has provided a valuable positive: a model for an “environmentally-friendly” mill.
In the construction of the Lavington mill, Pinnacle implemented new technologies that improve emissions from the mill, such as cyclofilter technology to remove particulate from external emissions as well as low temperature, low emissions bed dryers. The company also enclosed its main mill processes, reducing the noise produced and reducing the wood dust that can blow from the mill site onto adjacent properties.
The result of all of the measures put in place, some of which were influenced by environmental and community input, is a high-output mill on a small footprint with substantially improved standards for dust collection/suppression, emissions control and safety.
Sure, there are always going to be some community concerns that you can’t do much to address. Some of the fibre will have to be trucked to the site, provide truck noise and vehicle emissions that will impact those residents living within a close radius of the plant.
But what has been accomplished by Pinnacle in the design of the Lavington mill should be noted by the industry as we look for new ways to create positive efficiencies in current and future mill designs.
After all, we are creating a fuel that is meant to be an environmentally-friendly alternative to dirty energy like coal. The least we can do is find ways to create a production design that also carries that same consciousness.