Biomass Furnace Provides Alt. Energy Source

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"A Saskatchewan-based pilot project is looking for an alternative fuel source in a familiar formówood."

Leader Post, Dan Yates

A Saskatchewan-based pilot project is looking for an alternative fuel source in a familiar formówood.

The AAFC Agroforestry Development Center in Indian Head has showcased a new biomass furnace. When the $280,000 system is hooked up this fall, the center could achieve significant savings and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, using wood to heat its greenhouse and administration building.

The furnace is expected to be 90% efficient meaning that only 10% of the energy created when the wood is burned will be lost.

The only byproduct is a minimal amount of ash.

The center will be using waste wood and willow as fuel for the system. The willow tree is of particular interest as it grows naturally in the province in unwanted, low-lying areas on farmland.

Studies are being conducted at the ADC into how the willow grows and how the tree could be used to benefit farmers.

A farmer could harvest willows growing on low-lying, or wetland where he or she can't seed a crop. Using a specially designed baler, the willow, a fast-growing tree, could be harvested again in another three to five years.

Once harvested, the trees are baled, stored for six months while they dry and then are made into fuel, or wood chips, in a common tub grinder. The chips are stored in a bin and are fed into the furnace. In practical terms, seven bails could heat a house for a year.

The total cost from the field to the furnace is $40 to $50 for every ton of fuel for a total cost of approximately $10,000, which should provide savings compared to the $24,000 the center currently pays in natural gas expenses. Natural gas will still be used to supplement the biomass system.

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