Dalhousie University biomass heat plant replacement in full swing

By Anna Simet | December 12, 2017

A $24.2 million project to replace the aging thermal plant at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, is well underway, and has potential for an early startup.

Including replacement of steam lines with hot water lines, a wood boiler installation, new air quality controls, and a turbine to create up to 1 MW of power, the energy plant overhaul is being driven by not only the need to replace the university’s 28-year-old heating system, but to help achieve the university’s carbon reduction goals.

Planning for Dalhousie Agricultural Campus replacement system began when the provincial government was running the Nova Scotia Community Feed-in Tariff Program, which was designed to encourage community-based, local renewable energy projects by guaranteeing a rate per kilowatt-hour for the energy the project feeds into the province’s distribution electrical grid. The project received COMFIT approval in 2014, and the university plans to sell its excess power, expecting to generate around $1.36 million annually.

“We have already converted our steam system to hot water—that part is done,” said Rochelle Owen, executive director at Dalhousie University Office of Sustainability. “The biomass boiler and turbine are also there, and work is being done to get those set up and connected. At the same time, there is work being done on the fuel bin, so there is a lot going on on-site right now.”

Owen said the goal was to finish construction by June, but the project is a bit ahead of schedule. “We’re hopeful it may be as early as May,” she said. “We’ve always had an aggressive target, and we're doing our best to move along.”

The facility will annually use around 20,000 metric tons of biomass, which will be provided by local sources, and mostly consisting of sawmill residue. “We have all of the contracts in place with our suppliers, and we did some innovation in that arena,” Owen added.

Read more about the project in the upcoming January/February issue of Biomass Magazine.