North leading the way in technology

The B.C. Natural Resource Forum and Northern B.C. Business and Technology Awards, hosted in Prince George last week, were a great opportunity to see some of the innovation taking place in the north.

The B.C. Natural Resource Forum and Northern B.C. Business and Technology Awards, hosted in Prince George last week, were a great opportunity to see some of the innovation taking place in the north.

It’s impressive to see some of the research, technological development, innovative ideas and enterprising business practices happening around us.

One of the ideas getting some traction which started here in Prince George is the Carbon Offset Aggregation Cooperative. Kudos to MaryAnne Arcand and the folks at the Central Interior Logging Association for being ahead of the curve.

It’s a simple idea, really: take a baseline of fuel consumption for forestry trucks and equipment; install monitoring equipment; train operators in best practices for fuel efficiency; and sell carbon credits for the reduction in fuel consumption.

Already the idea has spread beyond the forest sector to transportation companies and the road construction industry. The protocols developed by the co-operative are a world first and may eventually become a provincial, national or international standard.

Heavy-equipment operators can save money on fuel and be more competitive, while still saving the environment. That’s a win-win in anybody’s books.

The Green Heat Initiative is a partnership of local organizations which is also promoting a simple concept: northern B.C. is a world-leading producer of wood pellets, but we hardly use any domestically. Why not take advantage of that production here?

Green Heat Initiative project co-ordinator David Dubois issued a challenge to the provincial government and local governments of the north. Provincially we have a wood-first policy for construction, why not a wood-first policy for heating as well?

Biomass is carbon neutral, with the right technology almost as clean-burning as natural gas, and even without subsidies is very cost-competitive against propane, fuel oil and diesel-generated electricity for heating.

It makes sense for the province to champion the use of wood pellets and biomass in rural areas off the natural gas grid. Why not create a program to install pellet boilers in rural schools, community halls and other public buildings?

A subsidy for home and business owners to convert to biomass heat would also help promote the adoption of the technology here in B.C.

It’s a way of going green, while saving heating costs and supporting jobs here in B.C. That makes it a win-win-win.

In isolated rural communities, biomass gasification – like the plant under development at UNBC – could be used to power electrical generators as well.

Unlike conventional thermal heating which requires a steam boiler and power engineers, the gas created by the biomass gasification process can be used to power an internal combustion engine.

Biomass generators could replace diesel generators in many of the isolated and remote parts of the province.

These are just a handful of the innovative ideas coming out of the north every day.

We’re not just hewers of wood and haulers of water up here, we’re leading the province in innovation.