Selkirk College turns wood waste into winter heat

By Selkirk College | October 19, 2022

A new biomass boiler on Selkirk College’s Silver King Campus in British Columbia is diverting wood waste with a significant bonus to the bottom line.

A load of wood chips from Salmo’s Porcupine Wood Products was delivered in mid-October, ushering in a new sustainable heat source era for the Nelson-based campus that was first opened in 1961. Funded by the Ministry of Advanced Education & Skills Training, the $1.8 million boiler project will reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) by at least 50 percent while saving the college $15,000 in natural gas purchases and $4,000 in carbon offset payments.

“Environmental sustainability is a cornerstone commitment in our strategic plan and we are proud to be a regional leader in this area,” says Kerry Clarke, the college’s vice president of college services. “Not only does this show proper stewardship when it comes to required replacement of college infrastructure, it is an excellent example for all the students who attend programs on the Silver King Campus. We appreciate the Provincial Government’s leadership in this area and its support in making the biomass boiler a reality.”

Home to the college’s School of Industry & Trades Training, the School of Academic Upgrading & Development and Community Education & Workforce Training classes, the seven campus buildings have used a natural gas fired central heating plant to provide most of the winter heat. Construction on the biomass boiler project began last autumn with contractor Fink Machines leading the effort with support from Selkirk College maintenance employees.

After considering other options for a new heat source—including geothermal and solar power—the biomass route was a perfect fit. The college is located in a region with direct ties to all facets of the forest industry and mills that can provide the scrap material.

“These are the types of capital projects that make sense, both for the environment and the operational budget,” says Laura Nessman, the college’s sustainability coordinator. “It’s in-line with several of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals [SDGs] as it relates to innovation, climate action and sustainable consumption.”

The biomass boiler will augment the remaining natural gas boilers which will be minimally required to attain adequate heat levels in shops, classrooms and common spaces. Beyond the primary objectives of reducing GHGs and costs, the biomass boiler will be used as a tangible training tool for relevant college programs.