Teslin Campus innovating with biomass boiler program

WHITEHORSE— Teslin will become a trendsetter this week, when the Yukon College campus there delivers a nine-day program teaching students how to harvest wood chips and install biomass boilers. By program’s end, those boilers will heat 10 buildings, including Teslin Community School, the Lands office, and a number of rental units.

“Many Yukon communities will look to Teslin in the future because they are going to be the leaders here for this type of technology,” said Stephen Mooney, Director of Cold Climate Innovation at the Yukon Research Centre, which is collaborating on the program with Teslin Tlingit Council (TTC) and the Government of Yukon’s Energy Solutions Centre (ESC). “Teslin is taking care of a resource that is renewable. This allows the community to be independent and in control of its energy needs.”

Blair Hogan, Executive Council with the TTC, says biomass has been part of Teslin’s community energy strategy for a decade. In 2016, Hogan put together a business plan for that strategy. Last year, TTC received $1.7 million in funding from organizations including CanNor and NRCAN. This went toward 10 biomass boilers, which, once operational, will save an average of $80,000 to $100,000 annually.
Shane Andre, Director of ESC, says the Centre provided the college $50,000 to develop the Teslin curriculum, because it fit with components of the Yukon Biomass Energy Strategy.

“A key part in ensuring our communities benefit from the energy strategy was training,” said Andre. “People need to have the skills to be able to take the jobs that will be created by the investments in biomass. We knew the College had experience in renewable energy education. This funding is part of implementing the Energy, Mines and Resources Minister’s mandate letter which commits to work collaboratively with Yukon First Nation communities and increase the availability of renewable energy solutions.”

Eric Hoogstraten, Department Head for the Southern Campuses in the School of Community Education and Development, created and will deliver the program. 

“In general, we’ve been using biomass forever in Yukon,” said Hoogstraten. But Yukoners often use cordwood, which is limited to the trunks of spruce and pine. Biomass boilers also use wood chips from willow and alder, including the limbs.

“This allows us to diversify into alternative energy sources. We have a real opportunity to be at the front of the pack in Canada in terms of using biomass,” he added.

The free program has attracted people from Teslin, Tagish, Carcross, Champagne and Aishihik, and Haines Junction. They range in age from young students, to adults who are looking for a career change.

“More so than offsetting heat and creating that training ground, it’s about creating a local economy,” says Hogan. “It’s about what we can do to make more forestry-related opportunities for the guys and the girls who are really interested in this kind of work.”

The course runs from Monday, March 7 to Friday, March 16, and covers harvesting practices, wood transportation, and wood chip storage, as well as boiler placement, installation, and maintenance.