Merritt residents will see an economic boost as well as better air quality if a bioenergy hydro project gets environmental approval, says the company’s vice-president.
B.C. Hydro announced Friday it has awarded four contracts in B.C. for projects to generate electricity through the burning of wood waste, largely from sawmill and backcountry logging operations.
Fred Scott, the vice-president of Western BioEnergy Inc., said Friday the awarding of a hydro contract to his company has been long awaited.
BioEnergy plans to build a $140-million, 228 gigawatt-hour generation facility at the Tolko sawmill property in Merritt. The company is now in the process of obtaining its final environmental permits. It’s hoped construction will get started in January and that the plant will be in full operation by July 2014, he said.
The construction phase will create about 80 jobs, he said, while plant operations will need 16 skilled workers. Another 60 people will be required to help with collection of the wood the plant will burn to generate electricity.
Scott said the plant will burn only clean, untreated wood products, either mill waste or trees and wood left behind by logging companies as roadside waste. Typically, the piles of wood waste are open burned, Scott said. Now, they will be hauled into Merritt and used to fuel the energy plant.
The plant will not burn any kind of treated wood product like rail ties, construction waste or pressure-treated lumber.
BioEnergy is a B.C.-based company owned by Dalkia Canada, which is owned by Dalkia International, a France-based company specializing in utilities and facilities management.
He acknowledged the Nicola Valley’s longstanding air qualiity problems, adding the presence of the BioEnergy plant will improve air quality, by reducing the number of open slash burns in the area.
There will also be much less emission from this plant than typical beehive burners previously associated with Merritt. Scott said the BioEnergy burner will produce less than one per cent of the emissions of a beehive burner.
Most of the electricity produced by the plant will be consumed in the Nicola Valley, he said.
“We have been at this for a very long time,” Scott said. “It’s uplifting to finally be awarded a contract.”
The four projects selected by B.C. Hydro will generate 750,000 gigawatt-hours of electricity — enough to power 70,000 homes. The projects form the second phase of a clean energy program. Twelve other projects, a co-generation project in Kamloops by Domtar, have previously been awarded.
“These bioenergy projects produce clean, reliable energy and economic opportunities for British Columbians in Merritt, Fraser Lake, Fort St. James and Chetwynd. These four B.C. companies can now efficiently use waste forest products to produce electricity to help meet B.C.’s growing energy needs,” said Rich Coleman, minister of energy and mines.
Merritt Mayor Susan Roline could not be reached for comment.