New report rekindles interest in Nakusp biomass project

·3 min read

Nakusp Village staff have been told to continue to pursue council’s dream for a biomass heating plant for several major buildings downtown.

The directive came after council received a new report outlining the feasibility of the alternative energy project at the September 27 council meeting.

Council ordered the $22,000 study by Urban Systems last spring, after a previous council pitch for funds was rejected by the Columbia Basin Trust. The new study was to take another look at financing options, provide greater detail on the scope and size of the project, and gather community and agency support.

Staff told council the new report was encouraging.

“The report presents a solid business case to move forward with the project and the Village is now in a better position to secure grant funding as opportunities become available,” wrote Village CFO Mark Tennant.

District heating system projects produce heat from a central furnace that’s distributed throughout pipes to the desired buildings. While biomass heating systems usually cost more to build, they save money in the long term thanks to their cheap fuel supply.

Based on the financial analysis completed by Urban Systems, the business case for proceeding with the biomass plant is “favourable,” staff determined, especially if 50% or more of the costs are covered by grants from other sources. The estimated payback period with 50% grant funding and 50% debt financing is 12-14 years.

The plant has an estimated lifespan of 30 years.

A biomass plant would use waste or excess wood from local sawmills in a high-tech heating system. Proponents, including Mayor Tom Zeleznik, say such a plant would save the Village high electrical bills, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and possibly generate local jobs and income.

Urban Systems studied two versions of the plan, one that only serviced the community’s sports complex, while the second scenario included the Seniors’ Hall and Emergency Services Building in a distributed heating plan. An earlier version of the project included the town’s two schools, but SD 10 officials bowed out of the plan.

The estimated cost to build a biomass plant for the sports complex alone is $505,000. If the ESB and Seniors’ Hall are included, the estimated cost is $806,000, the report says.

“The actual cost to the Village will be dependent on the amount of grant funding that is secured,” the report notes. “It is anticipated at this time that the Village’s portion of funding will have to come from debt financing or general surplus.”

The report identifies next steps, including refining the cost estimates, pursuing grant funding opportunities and determining Village financing options, and developing long-term wood chip purchasing agreements with local suppliers.

Urban Systems also says the Village should get a commitment from the Nakusp Seniors to purchase heat from the plant for the hall, and collect more detailed better energy data for each building that will be part of the system. The Village should also explore and understand the financial and debt implications of such a project, and work with local mills to confirm the wood chip supply’s quality and quantity.

Urban Systems says the Village could chase funding from the federal Green and Inclusive Communities Fund, the provincial CleanBC program, and other agencies.

Council received the report and directed staff continue to pursue grant funding opportunities based on its findings.

John Boivin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice

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