Austrian Bioenergy practices brought to Northern B.C.

July 01, 2013
July 1, 2013 - A pilot program launched by the University of Northern British Columbia is providing UNBC engineering students with valuable experience needed for implementing bioenergy technology in Northern B.C. communities.

The course, Northern B.C. Bioenergy, offers UNBC Environmental Engineering students the opportunity to learn about bioenergy and district heating systems design in Austria, and gives them access to both university and industrial manufacturing expertise.

The course is based around a two-week field trip to Austria, which the students took this spring with the goal of broadening Northern B.C. knowledge of bioenergy systems. The students will be designing bioenergy systems for local communities to determine the feasibility of implementing bioenergy-heating systems in their communities.

"Having people trained and experienced with this technology will benefit Northern B.C. as more rural and remote, off-grid communities express interest in implementing these systems," says Belinda Larisch, instructor and UNBC Adjunct Professor who developed the course. "Some communities, such as Gitsegukla near Hazelton have already started. Bioenergy represents one possible sustainable energy solution, as it utilizes local renewable resources. Using locally sourced bioenergy also makes sense economically; it will create jobs in these communities and reduce reliance on external energy sources."

Fifteen participants, including seven UNBC Environmental Engineering students and one UNBC MA NRES student, participated in the course, which was delivered with the assistance of the Canadian Trade Commission and the bioenergy industry in Austria, and supported in part by a donation from the 2012 International Bioenergy Conference and Exhibition, which is held in Prince George every two years.

A critical component of the course is the relevance of the student projects, all of which are based on actual sites and designed using real energy data.  The students have been assigned to one or two communities, which were either already involved with bioenergy projects, or intend to implement the technology in the future. These communities include Barkerville, Wells, Hazelton, New Hazelton, UNBC, and Westbank First Nation.  A further project was closer to home, involving UNBC's student residences and day care.

This course was also supported by the Northern Health Authority, who provided students with projects for hospitals and clinics in McBride, MacKenzie, Smithers, Masset , Quesnel, Terrace, Dease Lake,  and Burns Lake. The students will be submitting rough drafts of their designs for how bioenergy technology can be added to the existing heating systems in these communities by June 30, with their final designs due in September.  The results will be shared with the project sponsors.

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