By Taylor Fredericks
May 6, 2016 – If everything goes according to plan, Orangeville could soon be the home of an exciting new biomass project.
By Taylor Fredericks
Following a recommendation from town council to explore the possibility of a land lease agreement with the Petawawa Renewable Power Corporation (PRPC), the town has scheduled a public open house for May 9, where PRPC director Mark Bell will answer questions about his organization’s proposed biomass energy project.
The project—which would see the construction of a 500 kW gasification facility in the Orangeville Business Park—is part of a larger effort by the PRPC to capitalize on the Ontario Power Authority’s (OPA) Feed-In Tariff (FIT) Program, which awards contracts to help facilitate the construction of smaller-scale renewable energy projects.
“We seem to have uncovered a nice opportunity in Orangeville,” says Bell. “It’s a neat fit.”
The proposed facility would convert wood waste, grasses and agricultural byproducts into renewable electrical energy, with any excess heat created by the process used to produce hot water. The gasification process also produces a byproduct called biochar, which can be used as a soil amendment or organic fertilizer. Should the project succeed in obtaining a FIT contract, the PRPC would be able to sell the electricity produced into the grid. The hot water produced, meanwhile, could be used to boost local infrastructure.
“Because of the relatively small nature of these projects—they are as big as a couple of tennis courts—they’re producing a limited amount of heat, in the order of 10,000 GJ per year of 85C hot water,” says Bell. “Still, one unit produces enough to power a school, a small hospital, a large department or grocery store—something of that nature.”
Optimistic about the prospect of building in Orangeville, Bell is looking forward to meeting with local constituents at the upcoming open house to allay any concerns about noise or pollution.
“We have a 500 Kw engine—suitably muffled, with suitable catalytic converters—in an enclosure,” he explains. “You won’t hear this thing if you’re more than 200 meters away from it. That should allay any concerns about noise that might people might have.”
On the question of pollution, Bell points out that the engine used in the proposed facility will meet the Tier 4 requirements outlined by Ontario’s Ministry of Environment and the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), which set a high standard for emissions efficiency.
“Our engines are very clean,” he said. “You won’t smell it, you won’t hear it, and you won’t see any emissions coming off the end of the muffler.”
Depending on the town’s decision—as well as the success of their FIT application—Bell believes it is possible the project could be completed sometime in 2018.
“You have to do a certain amount of preparatory work and environmental studies,” he explains, “and that always takes time.”
As a private developer of renewable energy projects, the PRPC has been active in Ontario since 2005, with previous projects including large industrial-scale wind and solar installations in Southwestern Ontario. Still, after more than 10 years of operation in the province, Bell remains struck by the amount of interest and commitment he sees in all corners of the province.
“We have found a very interested audience for our non-taxed, fossil fuel-free renewable energy,” he says. “The government’s message is percolating through different sectors and communities—whether it be the institutional sector, the MUSH sector, or smaller-scale industries and shopkeepers—and many are interested in diversifying their heating source, and doing it in a responsible way.”
While his company works through the procedures necessary to secure a site and funding in Orangeville, Bell has high hopes for a number of other site opportunities he sees on the horizon, and believes that future projects will help sustain the growth of the renewable energy industry in the province.
“The projects aren’t very big, but they are sufficient to mobilize interest in solar, small wind projects, and small hydro projects.”