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Grants for Williams Lake First Nation to support wood pellet production

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Grants for the Williams Lake First Nation (WLFN) from the Forest Enhancement Society of BC (FESBC) are helping to create jobs, fight climate change, and reduce wildfire risk near its community.

To date, FESBC’s grants have supported the removal of 64,000 cubic metres (m3) of debris from forest fires (slash) and over the next two years, the figure will rise to 200,000 m3. The ongoing project will also create around 26 jobs for both the WLFN and the Tŝideldel First Nation (TFN), which has partnered to grind the debris on-site and ship it to local markets.

The high-quality slash fibre is used by Pinnacle Renewable Energy to make industrial wood pellets. Lower-quality slash fibre is turned into ‘hog’ fuel, to be used by Atlantic Power Corporation’s biomass-fired generating facility in Williams Lake, to provide thermal electricity for the community’s energy grid.

Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations, and Rural Development, said: “The WLFN has partnered with the TFN on this unique ongoing project that is seeing slash piles turned into biomass fuel instead of burning them.

“This green energy project is reducing greenhouse gas emissions and building new economic opportunities for both communities while contributing to BC’s clean energy plan.”

Three FESBC grants between 2017 and 2019, totalling more than $3 million (€1.89 million), allowed WLFN to develop an ongoing programme and enabled it to build several partnerships to grind the debris at site and truck it to local markets. One of the most significant partnerships, according to FESBC, was with the TFN contractor, Tsi Del Biomass, which brought logging and grinding experience to the project.

“Tsi Del Del has really appreciated the opportunity to collaborate with WLFN on grinding and trucking more than 1,000 piles to customers in our local fibre basket,” said Percy Guichon, director at Tsi Del Del Enterprises and Tŝideldel First Nation councillor.

“Working together on a business basis has resulted in benefits for both communities and created employment opportunities while making products from this biomass.”

Ken Day, consulting forester at KDay Forestry, commented: “On average, biomass costs more to produce than what the market will pay. Two markets in Williams Lake can use the fibre – Pinnacle Renewable Energy and Atlantic Power. We also wanted to avoid burning the debris and creating smoke in the air, which would have been hard on the community.

“Not removing the piles of debris could contribute to a very intense fire – obviously undesirable adjacent to the community. Without funding from FESBC to make up the shortfall, this important project would not have gone ahead.”