Located in northern British Columbia, Canada, the Tsay Keh Dene Nation currently relies on diesel generators to provide power for the community of roughly 100 households. The provincial power utility, BC Hydro, burns more than one million litres of diesel every year to produce electricity for the community, all of which has to be trucked in to the remote site.
The diesel generator system produces significant greenhouse gas emissions and limits the community's ability to expand its power needs. And yet, forestry biomass is plentiful in the area. Recognizing the need for a cleaner and more scalable source of energy, the Tsay Keh Dene Nation decided to capitalize on local resources and switch to a biomass generation system.
BBA was initially contracted to carry out an economic analysis of an existing design. The firm followed this with rescoping the project and negotiating an operating protocol with BC Hydro on behalf of the Nation. Now, BBA is supporting and preparing engineering designs for the biomass generating plant. The project scope also includes designing a district heating system to reuse waste heat from the biomass plant.
A cascade of environmental and social benefits
Once the biomass generation plant is complete, it will reduce the community's reliance on diesel for power by about 55%, substantially cutting the emissions related to power generation and fuel transportation. Using locally harvested wood from nearby forestry debris as well as debris from the Williston Reservoir is a greener and more sustainable source of energy.
Equally important is the fact that the biomass power plant will usher in a new era of autonomy for the Dene Nation. Already, the district heating system is expected to do more than just heat homes; it will allow the community to build and operate a commercial greenhouse, providing families with a source of locally grown fresh vegetables.
Finally, the project will provide new permanent employment opportunities for local residents, primarily in the areas of equipment operation and biomass collection.
Partnering with Indigenous communities
The Tsay Keh Dene Nation biomass generation project is being led by the Indigenous community, for the Indigenous community. BBA is pleased to be able to share its technical expertise to make the initiative successful and hopes the process will be defined through bi-directional knowledge sharing, trust and respect. The firm recognizes that the path to reconciliation starts with active listening. Together with its Indigenous partners, BBA also recognizes that the environment is a shared legacy.
To find out more about this project, read the article entitled Down with diesel? Tsay Keh Dene Nation looks to biomass for heating needs (Canadian Biomass Magazine).