District looks at wood heat for former Dutch Lake School

The biomass-based heating system possibly could be expanded to include the nearby RCMP building

A round wooden bin supplies wood chips for a small-scale bio-energy plant that supplies hot water heat for a nearby hotel in Austria. Former Clearwater councillor Bert Walker went on a fact-finding trip to Europe in 2011 to look into biomass heating.

A round wooden bin supplies wood chips for a small-scale bio-energy plant that supplies hot water heat for a nearby hotel in Austria. Former Clearwater councillor Bert Walker went on a fact-finding trip to Europe in 2011 to look into biomass heating.

District of Clearwater plans to convert the former Dutch Lake School into a multi-use community center this year.

The center would include new municipal offices for the District, plus provide space for the ICBC sales office and Yellowhead Community Services functions.

The project might include changing the building from propane heat to wood. The biomass-based heating system possibly could be expanded to include the nearby RCMP building and even houses in the neighbourhood.

The project was discussed during the March 4 town council meeting.

Payback time for the biomass heat project would be three to five years (with grants), said councillor Merlin Blackwell.

Enderby has a neighbourhood biomass heating system that services about a dozen buildings – essentially a city block – from one heating unit.

Other buildings in Clearwater being looked at for biomass heating include the Sportsplex and Dr. Helmcken Memorial Hospital.

Biomass could provide new business opportunities for local operators, councillor Barry Banford said.

Chief administrative officer Leslie Groulx noted that propane for the Sportsplex was locked in at 65 cents per litre in November. However, it is predicted to increase to $1.35 or 1.40.

Funding for the biomass project likely would come from the Southern Interior Beetle Action Committee, Groulx said.

According to a business case study prepared Wood Waste 2 Rural Heat Project for District of Clearwater, heating the former Dutch Lake School with propane would cost about $30,000 per year.

Converting to biomass would require about two and a half “B” train chip trucks per year.

This would provide about 90 per cent of the heat needed. The existing propane system would be used for backup.

A chip heating system, including boiler, distribution and fuel storage, would cost about $200,000. A pellet system would cost about $160,000, but would not have the beneficial local economic impacts.

Connecting the RCMP building would cost another $25,000. This would be offset by about $5,000 per year in the sale of heat.

One possible location for the heating unit would be on the bank between the school and the play-field. This would allow a two-level building, with fuel storage above and boiler below.

Sources of fuel might include local sawmills, although the small volumes required might be difficult for a larger mill to supply.

Other sources might be harvesting operations and slash piles within the community forest and local woodlots or from wildfire mitigation work.

The heat generated by burning the fuel would be stored in a large hot water tank. The hot water would then be distributed throughout the building at low pressure.

New name for Dutch Lake School?

At some point a new name for the former Dutch Lake School will need to be formalized, Mayor John Harwood noted.

At present, the term Dutch Lake Community Center is being used, which seems to describe the function and location, he said.

Councillor Shelley Sim said it would be good to hear from the community to see if anyone has any better ideas for a name.

Harwood noted that the school district has moved away from naming schools after individuals. Twenty years later, no one knows who the person was, he said.