March 9, 2020 — Climate change is real, and we see it with weather changes, increased variation in temperatures, weather fluctuations, impact on wildlife, people and our environment. Much of climate change is tied to greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), human activity like the use of fossil fuels for heating our homes or driving our vehicles.
Further to the Community Energy Plan and aligned to the community vision of Mino bimaadziwin ka-naag-doonaa!, Wikwemikong was selected to pilot activities that would contribute to a reduction in GHG emissions, a project supporting conversion of fossil fueled appliances to appliances heating with wood pellets. As of today, the program has realized, the conversion of 8 community buildings with boiler appliances. Among them is that of the Wikwemikong’s Holy Cross Mission, which is run by Jesuits.
Climate change is one of the most important environmental issues of our time. Climate change is caused by the increase in concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere. These increases are primarily due to human activities such as the use of fossil fuels or agriculture.
There have also been 98 homes with pellet stoves, a majority offsetting their use of fuel oil, and 2 homes with pellet furnaces (with 40 still to do). Concurrently, and independently exclusive to this initiative Wikwemikong is working on a pellet manufacturing plant. So, inevitably, we will be manufacturing and delivering pellets at some time in the future to our own community.
Ecological and Technological Conversion: Challenges and Opportunities
As with any business start up the challenges are many, new technology, new maintenance requirements, sourcing quality pellets, preparing for winter, capacity, timing, to name but a few new learning objectives to add to our routines. For Wikwemikong Development Commission, operating as Enaadmaagehjik, (People Helping People), the challenges are primarily working toward having in place the necessary infrastructure to service the new conversions, this is the next phase of the project. The community recently purchased a pellet delivery truck, hired a new local driver and helper, and is embarking on constructing two 78 Tonne storage silos to be located at a newly constructed light manufacturing business park. These silos will enable an ample supply of pellets to service the bulk requirements of the community buildings and for the residences requiring bulk delivery, that is, those with pellet furnaces and boilers.
Switching to wood pellets results in new employment opportunities, training, and support of regional businesses, therefore contributing to economic development in the north while reducing our impact on the environment.
Capacity development and training in the community included 9 individuals for the pellet stoves, 4 for the pellet furnaces and 5 with the pellet boilers. In addition to the capacity to install and service stoves, 8 members were given the opportunity to take the WETT training (wood energy technology transfers). We have one member with sufficient hours and has passed the exam and is now as a Certified WETT Inspector. For residences with the pellet stoves requiring bagged pellets, the program can continue to coordinate the bulk delivery of pallets of pellets.
In closing, this initiative is projected to realize upon its completion, displacement of approximately 258,700 litres of fuel oil, which is equivalent to a reduction of 704 tonnes of GHG. Below is the picture noting the volume equivalent to 1 Tonne of GHG. The equivalency of 1 Tonne of GHG is heating a home for 4 months, or emissions equivalent to a year’s trash from 1 household, or driving 4,500 km , that is 13 trips to Sudbury and back!
Submitted on behalf of Wikwemikong Development Commission, the economic development arm of Wikwemikong. This article is written by R. Nikki Manitowabi, MBA, B.Comm. Nikki works to assist on opportunities for community to foster new employment opportunities, new businesses working in economic development.