The first biomass heating project to use waste wood in the North has been up and running for a month.

The project was initiated by Chris Schmidt from ACS Mechanical. In the spring of 2015 he was asked to replace the boilers at Raven Recycling, and in November he presented the project to Cold Climate Innovations at the Yukon Research Centre.

“I sat down to make a quote and looking on the computer and stuff, and this had always been in the back of my mind,” Schmidt says. “It always bugged me when they do power lines, lot clearing, road clearing and this stuff just gets wasted.

“And I found this wood chip boiler and it has CSA (Canadian Standards Agency) approval.”

The boiler he found is a 100 kW Hargassner wood chip boiler from Austria and it has been heating the Raven Recycling depot since March 10.

The Yukon Government and the Yukon Research Centre are providing $60,000 in funding to test this biomass heating project at Raven Recycling.

Stephen Mooney, director at Cold Climate Innovations, thought this was a great project when Schmidt came forward with the idea.

“What is beautiful about this Hargassner unit is, that it’s very forgiving in the quality of chips that you put into it. That is why I got behind this project, because we in the Yukon are rookies, or infants, in making chips,” Mooney says.

He likens putting the wrong kind of chips into wood chip boilers with putting diesel fuel into a gasoline-run car.

“This Hargassner unit can take garbage or low-value chips and that is the best quality of that unit – and that is why we went and I supported this,” Mooney says. “If we were going for a higher end one, that was finicky with the chips, I would not have supported this project.”

Turns out this little beauty is pretty low maintenance, too. Danny Lewis, educational coordinator at Raven Recycling, says the machine does almost everything by itself.

“I think the neatest thing I find is that it cleans itself. As a consumer, you know, you’ve always got to call the repair guy or the chimney guy or whoever,” Lewis says.

All the staff have to do is keep the hopper filled with chips and empty the ash box.

“And enjoy the heat,” Schmidt adds.

But before the machine could start working, wood chips where needed.

Raven Recycling started collecting pallets from the neighborhood in October and by December, they had a big pile together.

“We had Castle Rock (Enterprise) come, it took them two and a half hours to chip up 21 tons worth of wood, which is enough to last an entire year and we had pallets left over,” Lewis says.

The heating costs for Raven Recycling used to be around $30,000 to $40,000, but with this unit, it will probably be around $3,000 to $5,000 per year.

“What I understand, just from waste wood, there is probably enough to run 12, 16 of those units (in Whitehorse),” Schmidt says, adding that there is likely enough to feed two to three in each community.

Stephen Mooney says “it’s a beautiful thing” that Raven Recycling wanted to divert the waste wood that was going to the landfill, and put it to use heating their building.

“I love the support of that. That’s innovative. That’s green. And it’s showing people the power of biomass – that we should use biomass more in the Yukon,” he says.

From now one, waste wood will no longer just be waste at Raven Recycling. And maybe this project will pave the way for a future of biomass heating in the Yukon.