The university is replacing the 28-year-old biomass furnace that’s currently in operation but nearing the end of its useful life.
By heating oil to turn a turbine, the new thermal plant will create 1 Megawatt of electricity and sell it to Nova Scotia Power under the community feed-in tariff program at 17.5 cents per kilowatt-hour.
Nova Scotia’s COMFIT was intended to encourage innovation in community-based, local renewable energy projects by guaranteeing a rate per kilowatt-hour. The biomass project at the AC was approved in 2014.
The university expects to make $1.36 million a year from the sale of electricity.
The “waste” heat from the electrical generation will then be used to heat water for heating the buildings on the AC campus.
The university began replacing its old steam pipes last September and is continuing that work this spring. The new piping system will use hot water to heat the campus instead of the current steam. That change will mean it will take 30 per cent less thermal energy to heat the campus.
Because the system will be producing electricity it will require more than double the amount of fuel per year, up from 9,000 tonnes a year to 20,000 tonnes.
The university is also installing a new double hopper to allow it more flexibility with the fuels it burns and to study and compare various fuels.
Along with the physical upgrades, the university has also issued a value statement about the types of biomass they want to burn.
Dalhousie’s bioenergy guidelines require them to focus on using sawmill waste, yard waste and tree trimmings.
The university has already lined up two research projects into more expensive fuels that could in the future provide a sustainable fuel source – one research project will look into the feasibility of growing and burning willow, which is fast growing, absorbs water and grows well in marginal lands not suitable for food production crops.
The second study will look at using the wood from selective harvests and silviculture.
Dalhousie will also be upgrading its air quality control system for the plant’s emissions with an electric static precipitator that will meet and exceed provincial regulations.
The new system will run winter and summer, starting in June 2018. Winter efficiency is expected to hit 85 per cent but summer only 55 per cent. The university is investigating another level of innovation to use the waste heat in the summer.
Dalhousie expects a positive net present-value payback in roughly 23 to 25 years including the offset of $13 million in unfunded deferred maintenance.
A public information session about the Dalhousie Agricultural Campus Thermal Plant Upgrade is being held May 31.
Dalhousie is upgrading the current heating plant building with a new biomass power boiler and generator that will promote and support existing and new sustainable biomass supply.
The public can drop in and speak to the experts from 3:30-4:30 p.m., or stay for the formal presentation from 4:30-5:30 p.m.
It is being held at the Riverview Room, Jenkins Hall, Agricultural Campus, 40 Horseshoe Crescent, Bible Hill,