BY BILL PHILLIPS
In the scheme of things, the federal funding announcement for Kwadacha First Nation last week wasn’t a huge one.
Kwadacha will receive $143,000 of the $6.45 million in federal funding announced in Prince George by Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr.
However, the funding is huge for the band, located near Fort Ware, and the band has been working on this project for a long time, says Chief Donnie van Somer.
Of the funding, $98,000 will go towards a community combined heat and power bioenergy system and $45,000 will go towards a review and report of the band’s initiative to use local beetle-killed timber to fuel the bioenergy plant.
“In 2008, when Canada announced it wanted to pursue green energy initiatives, it was about the same time the pine beetle was devastating B.C.” said van Somer. “ … We wanted to become self-sustainable so we started researching biomass.”
The pine beetle impact was all around the First Nation, so it made sense to try and utilize some of that wood. Kwadacha First Nation has relied on diesel generators to produce electricity and propane to provide heat.
Over the past six years, Kwadacha Nation has been working on an energy conservation and green heat strategy. It has now installed a combined heat and power bioenergy system in the community to be fueled using local biomass. Heat from the combined heat and power bioenergy plant will be used for a district energy system connected to the community school and residences.
Last year it received funding to investigate the fuel supply and storage required for feestock to power the system.
“It’s the first of kind in North America,” said van Somer. “It’s serving a community that’s off the grid. It’s been operating for about a year now and it’s proven itself to be reliable.”
The plant has also created four jobs in the community.
“We believed in this initiative and we feel it’s going to continue to move forward as a great project for community,” he said.
The community has built a couple of greenhouses, which is heated by the plant and fresh vegetables are now being produced for the community.
One of the challenges is finding ways to dispose of the piles of residual wood waste. The band will complete a feasibility study to investigate solutions to utilizing the wood waste that is generated.