Hot water: Teslin Tlingit Council proposes biomass heat

The Teslin Tlingit Council has submitted an application the the Yukon Environment Socio-economic Assessment Board to install a biomass heating system in Teslin.

The Teslin Tlingit Council has submitted an application the the Yukon Environment Socio-economic Assessment Board to install a biomass heating system in Teslin.

Ishkitan executive counsellor Blair Hogan said the council will install 10 biomass boilers — two sets of four and one set of two boilers — to heat 10 buildings, including the daycare, the school, the administration building and three rental houses.

The buildings are currently heated by fossil fuels, he said. Putting them on biomass heat would eliminate the community’s consumption of 2.5 million litres of fossil fuels over the next 30 years — about the same volume as an Olympic-sized swimming pool, Hogan said.

The biomass boilers — which are the same type and model as the one installed at Raven Recycling in Whitehorse in 2016 — run on waste wood, he said, which is comprised largely of the trees cut down during development projects, such as building and maintaining roads and subdivisions.

Hogan said 100 per cent of their fuel needs could be met with this waste wood, but that there would also be supplementary harvesting by the community, which would create jobs.

The project will also create 28 construction jobs, he said.

The boilers will be extremely efficient, he said, because they will all work together, connected by a computer system. If they only need to have four boilers running to generate enough heat, only four will run, with the boilers interacting with each other automatically so that nothing is wasted.

Hogan said that despite how complicated that sounds, the system is “incredibly simple” and that, with the exception of yearly maintenance, the system will be run and maintained entirely by community members who have been trained in their care.

“Our citizens are very excited about this project,” he said.

The community has spent an average of $110,000 a year over the last three years on fossil fuels to heat the 10 buildings, he said. The biomass boilers aren’t intended to save Teslin money, he said — although it may do that — but divert money spent on fuels imported from Outside into fuels produced within the community.

Hogan said he expects a “domino effect” as other communities take interest in biomass boilers. The Yukon is behind the rest of the world when it comes to implementing this technology, he said, which is very common in Europe.

“This project will be a big win not just for Teslin, but for all of the Yukon,” he said. “It’s crazy that we are burning all this fossil fuel when we have this option.”

The Yukon spends an average of $50 million per year on fossil fuel heating, he said.

The project is currently under assessment by YESAB, and Hogan says he doesn’t expect any issues with the project’s approval.

Construction will take two to three months and is expected to be completed by fall 2017.

Contact Lori Garrison at lori.garrison@yukon-news.com

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