The wood-fuelled heating systems being proposed for downtown Minden, Haliburton, Wilberforce and Cardiff by Torchlight Bioresources Inc. are a great idea for numerous reasons.
The company has been visiting local municipal councils in recent months, with its pitch for systems that would provide heat to downtown buildings via a series of water-filled pipes. Essentially, each system would involve a central energy centre, where wood chips would be burned in specialized equipment, heating water in a boiler, that water then distributed though a series of underground pipes, providing heat and water heat to buildings.
The wood chips would be supplied by Haliburton Forest.
The first and most obvious benefit, the reason for the systems to exist in the first place, is lowered heating costs. The company says the goal is to reduce heating bills by up to 30 per cent. An agreement with the forest for the supply of wood chips would give the company the ability to lock in the price of heating for extended periods of time. Bills would not be subject to the fluctuation of propane, gas or electricity prices. That could make an attractive prospect for someone considering starting a business in downtown Minden.
For municipalities, these projects are an opportunity to get involved with progressive, sustainable technology, without having to dish out much cash. Torchlight was successful in obtaining a $2.8-million grant from the Municipal Greenhouse Gas Challenge Fund on behalf of the Municipality of Dysart et al for the Haliburton village project, and that money will essentially act as municipality’s equity in the project, helping with the significant capital start-up costs. Federal funding is also being sought. A Minden project would also rely on grant funding, for which the company will prepare the applications.
A public-private partnership, systems would be operated by utility corporations owned partially by the municipalities, which would share in revenues. The utilities themselves, however, must be able to operate on the money generated through heat sales. Even any maintenance work performed by a municipal employee, for example, would be billed back to the utility corporation.
Speaking of employees, these district energy systems will also provide jobs for local people, and because those people live in the community, it means, ultimately, that more money stays in the community. Through their heating bills, building owners within the system would essentially be contributing to the local economy, while saving money on the cost of heat.
Seems like a pretty good deal. The systems would also give Haliburton Forest – another local employer – a nearby market for its scrap wood.
Finally, the energy centres themselves, which would be constructed with glass elements so passersby are able to observe the processes within, would act as showpieces, demonstrating that small communities can do big things.