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Jail's new boiler runs on friendly fuel

Jessica Gray
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Nov 17/06) - In just a few weeks, the North Slave Correctional Centre in Kam Lake expects to start saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in heating costs.

Meanwhile, the company supplying the new wood pellet burning system is eyeing more Yellowknife locations for its alternative source of energy.

NNSL Photo/graphic

Mike Broussard, a Gap Electric employee, does some electrical work on a new boiler system being installed at the North Slave Correctional Centre. - Jessica Gray/NNSL photo

"We're in talks with the city about heating the Yellowknife Multiplex and the pool," said Thomas Wunderlin, the project manager and co-owner of Arctic Green Energy.

Burning wood pellets - created from wood by-products in sawmills - is environmentally sound and cost effective, he said.

Wood pellets produce eight to 10 times less carbon dioxide emissions compared to heating oil.

The savings for the correctional centre alone are estimated at $300,500 for the first year and $50,500 in heating and maintenance costs every year after.

Arctic Green Energy plans to sell energy to the corrections facility as a utility company would.

Wunderlin said his company will know in the new year if the city is interested in implementing this technology.

A municipal energy expert agrees that wood pellets are a good alternative.

"The Community Energy Plan recommends the use of wood pellets in city facilities," said Mark Henry, the city's energy co-ordinator.

The plan was released over the summer and recommends the city investigate alternative energy sources.

According to the report, 95 per cent of Yellowknife's electricity comes from hydro-electric generators.

Despite this, the report stated Yellowknifers still emitted 19 tonnes of carbon dioxide per person in 2004.

Henry is the person in charge of developing a strategy for environmentally friendly energy. His goal is to reduce emissions and save money for residents.

The strategy should be before city council sometime in January 2007, Henry said.

"It's about using tax dollars more efficiently," he said.

Arctic Energy Alliance, a Yellowknife energy management group, also supports using wood pellets.

"So far, we've done a couple studies and wood pellets seem to be a good renewable source of energy," said Andrew Robinson, the community energy plan co-ordinator for the group.

"It's cheaper than oil, he said.