Biomass Heating Goes To School

CO-OPERATOR STAFF / OTTERBURNE

Staff and students at Providence University College and Seminary in Otterburne are stoked about a new biomass heating unit that will lower emissions and keep them toasty this winter.

The No. 1 reason we wanted to do this is because we are a Christian university and, as a Christian university, we feel a very strong responsibility to be good stewards of the environment, said university president August Konkel. This is a way for us to lessen the impact we are having on the environment, or as it might be said, be more green.

The stoker, as the biomass unit is called, heats three buildings on the rural campus and provides hot water to its kitchen. Standing more than a storey tall, the heating system and augers that feed it are discreetly located in a nondescript barn, repurposed and relocated to meet fire regulations. The unit s small smokestack produces almost no smoke.

You might see a little puff every now and again, but it s almost nothing, in seconds it s gone, said Heath Holden, vice-president of facility management.

The fuel also gives new purpose to what would have been considered waste before, he said. The Manitoba-built Blue Flame Stoker burns pellets made of compressed biomass, such as straw, oat husks or sawdust.

Currently DeFehr Furniture is providing the school with primarily donated pellets.

So far it is working splendidly, and it s given us a lot more control over the temperature… so no more open windows in the winter, said the president. Before this we had natural gas heating, but this is more efficient and we still have the gas system as a backup.

The financial savings are estimated at up to $50,000 annually, and the biomass heater is expected to remove 180 tonnes of greenhouse gases each year the equivalent of taking 33 cars off the road.

The university received support from all three levels of government, including $84,000 from the province s Community Led Emissions Reduction (CLER) Initiative as well as the federal-provincial Knowledge and Infrastructure Program.

Konkel said he hopes this project serves as an inspiration to others. He noted the school also uses geothermal energy and is considering wind energy.

We haven t ruled it out yet, wind energy is something quite interesting, he said.

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So far it is working splendidly, and it s given us more control over the temperature… so no more open windows in the winter.

AUGUST KONKEL

Providence University College and Seminary president

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Providence University College and Seminary president August Konkel (l), and Heath Holden, vice-president of facility management stand in front of the school s new biomass burner.PHOTO: SHANNON VANRAES

About the author

Reporter

Shannon VanRaes is a journalist and photojournalist at the Manitoba Co-operator. She also writes a weekly urban affairs column for Metro Winnipeg, and has previously reported for the Winnipeg Sun, Outwords Magazine and the Portage Daily Graphic.

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