Biomass feasibility study

Project information

The University of Victoria, acting on its commitment to being a leader in sustainability has examined the possibility of using biomass thermal energy as a primary source to heat campus buildings and to replace the existing natural-gas fired boilers. Exploring the use of biomass fuel was among the recommendations of the 2011 Integrated Energy Master Plan.

The university engaged Dalkia Canada to conduct a feasibility study for the company to design, build and operate a biomass thermal energy plant.  Extensive work was done to determine the viability and costs of this initiative including assessing existing UVic facilities, the best technical solution, building and operating requirements, and the availability and logistics of potential fuel sources. Preliminary feedback from the internal and external community was also gathered, including at an open house in March 2013.

Dalkia completed a Biomass Feasibility Study report and a formal review was undertaken.  In order to have viable comparisons for analysis, a study of alternate solutions was also undertaken for the university by the consultants, Integral Group, who were involved in preparing the Integrated Energy Master Plan.

After thoroughly reviewing and analyzing both reports, the university decided the initiative is not feasible as proposed. Among the factors for the decision were the availability and cost of fuel, the limited research and teaching opportunities, and the ongoing need to have gas-fired boilers to meet peak energy needs and as a redundant source of heat.

The university remains committed to alternative energy as part of its comprehensive energy strategy that focuses on conservation, efficiency and the use of renewable energy sources. A recent example is the use of geothermal energy to heat and cool the Centre for Athletics, Recreation and Special Abilities, currently under construction and due to open in spring 2015.

The university will also explore other options such as developing a research development project, in close alliance with the Faculty of Engineering and others, to provide heat for a select number of buildings as well as provide research and teaching opportunities.

Through ongoing efforts, the university has already achieved remarkable results in reducing energy use, operating costs and water usage.  In the last four years, a reduction in natural gas consumption has cut greenhouse emissions by 5,570 tonnes per year. The CARSA geothermal system will result in an annual emissions reduction of 340 tonnes, equivalent to 65 passenger cars, compared to other heating systems.

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The Community Engagement Framework Report provides for a consistent methodology to be used to determine the overall approach to an engagement program for a new capital project. 

An engagement approach in the Involve category has been determined for this project, based on the assessment of the potential impacts. The project has been assessed using Table 4.1 in the Engagement Approach Criteria (see green highlighted areas).

The community engagement objectives for this project are to:

  • Inform the public and stakeholders about the project, including the study process and opportunities for involvement;
  • Educate about biomass, including its benefits, and the broader context of renewable energy and the energy system;
  • Obtain input on priorities and aspirations for the biomass plant at the UVic Gordon Head campus, which will be considered in the development of recommendations and options;
  • Explore interests, opportunities, and options with stakeholders; and
  • Report back and demonstrate how community input was used in developing a preferred option, including the technical criteria used to assess the preferred option.
A campus open house was held in March 2013, engagement materials can be viewed through the documents tab.