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District of Sicamous and Federal government come to terms on biomass heater grant

Once completed the project could heat arena elementary school and more using wood waste
The District of Sicamous is investigating ways to harness waste wood as a clean heat source for several buildings. The Sicamous and District Rec Centre is one of them (File photo)

The District of Sicamous is looking to turn forest fuels into a modern heating solution.

At their Jan. 16 meeting, district council agreed to include $500,000 in the budget to help this vision become reality.

The district initially applied for federal funding that would cover half the cost of a bio-fuel heating system – a large boiler that would generate heat for nearby buildings by burning wood waste.

The feds eventually agreed to fund $1.2 million of the $1.7 million project, but the funds are conditional on the district coming up with the remaining $500,000. Council passed a resolution at the Jan. 16 meeting to include the $500,000 commitment in the district’s 2019 financial plan.

The boiler, which will be ordered if Sicamous receives the grant funding, would be installed between the Sicamous and District Recreation Centre and Parkview Elementary. Once operational, it could provide heat to the school and arena, as well as the nearby curling club, strip mall and other buildings.

Coun. Malcolm Makayev asked where the half-a-million dollars would come from.

Related:Sicamous takes a look at wood-waste energy

Town manager Evan Parliament replied district staff intend to apply for a second grant, this one through a provincial government program, to offset the costs incurred by contributing to the boiler project. Parliament said the provincial grant could also fund a second wood-waste boiler to generate heat and possibly also electricity for buildings in Sicamous’ industrial area.

Makayev inquired about the negative financial implications the district would be exposed to if they do not receive the second grant. Parliament said the risks are minimal; if the district is unable to come up with the $500,000 through the grant, or other sources such as reserves and borrowing when it comes time to order the boiler, then the project can simply be postponed or abandoned completely.

“It’s just a tool to move forward,” said Mayor Terry Rysz of the $500,000 commitment.

The motion approving the financial commitment was approved unanimously.

Related:Sicamous considered at for natural gas service

As Sicamous does not have natural gas lines running to it, buildings in the district primarily rely on propane and electricity for heating. A wood-waste burning boiler could conceivably reduce heating costs for nearby buildings, particularly if it was fueled by waste wood from the community forest project proposed for the area or other nearby forestry operations.

According to a consultant’s report on the project, comissioned by the district in 2018, the rec centre alone spends $40,000 per year on propane and $60,000 on electricity. Savings would also be welcome for Parkview Elementary, which costs School District #83 $10,000 in propane annually to heat.

The school district expressed their support for the project in a letter which the District of Sicamous will include in their grant application.


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Jim Elliot

About the Author: Jim Elliot

I’m a B.C. transplant here in Whitehorse at The News telling stories about the Yukon's people, environment, and culture.
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