Modern biomass energy systems are one of the few clean and renewable options for displacing fossil fuels to meet both heat and power demands in remote communities. Several diesel-dependent communities across Canada’s north have recently adopted biomass heating and combined heat and power (CHP), with the number expected to grow significantly in the near future, if the number of applications to the Clean Energy for Rural and Remote Communities (CERCC) Bioheat Program of Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) is any indication.
In early 2020, CanmetENERGY, part of NRCan, carried out interviews with nine pioneering rural and remote communities that have installed bioenergy systems to gain a better understanding of the challenges faced and what has worked, or not, in terms of technologies, system design, fuel supply and storage and day-to-day operations. An article summarizing the communities and the factors that led to success was published in the Summer 2020 print edition of Canadian Biomass magazine and can be found here. This article is the second of a series of four articles based on the interviews. It details the technical and operational aspects of the bioenergy systems. The two articles that follow will detail experiences and challenges related to biomass fuel supply (Part 3), and training and capacity building (Part 4).
In all nine communities interviewed, heat is the primary output of the bioenergy systems, reducing the demand for imported heating fuels. Biomass boilers heat either individual buildings (three communities) or a district heating loop (six communities) connected to two or more buildings. One community generates both heat and electricity using a series of three small gasification combined heat and power (CHP) units, one of the first applications of small-scale biomass CHP in the country. The heat generated from the CHP heats a district heating (DH) network, while the electricity produced is sold to the local microgrid, owned by BC Hydro. The table below gives a summary of the technical details of the biomass energy systems in the nine communities.